Thursday, June 10, 2010

98.) New Mantra

Okay, so here's the deal. I've rewritten this about three or four times now. If I reread it to go back and edit it, I'll probably find a new reason to scrap it... so I'm not going to do that. I'll never get it just right, so this'll have to do.

Soundtrack Song - Muse, Resistance

When Kris didn’t immediately answer me, I began to rub his shoulders and neck. I could feel how tense he was, and I tried to massage it away. He and I needed to have this conversation; it was something I had decided while he was away. Even though we hadn’t talked about it, this second separation was the reason for all the stress on our reunion. It was great when we were just excited to see each other again—but once we added all this pressure to make this week the best ever, to make this last us until we could permanently be together again, we ruined all its potential.

I could feel the knots in his corded muscle, so I pressed my thumbs deep into the tissue and moved them in symmetrical circles. He was tired, but I wasn’t about to let him go to sleep on me. “Kris....”

“I know you wanna talk, Jo, but what is there to say?” he asked, his voice gruff and thick—probably from sleepiness and irritation. “You said it already, that it’s happening whether we like it or not. So what is there left to say?”

“A lot, actually,” I replied quietly, still keeping my hands busy as they worked on his body. “If you don’t wanna talk, can you just listen to me? I need to talk about it.”

Kris nodded but didn’t otherwise move, so I kept my fingers moving and kneading. He has such strong shoulders and a thick neck. I pressed firmly, eliciting a strange cross between a moan and a groan. At least I knew he was still awake.

I began to think aloud. “I wanna stay out here with you.” Kris opened his mouth, but I squeezed his shoulders hard and cut him off. “Don’t interrupt me, okay? I said I needed to talk, and I want you to just listen.” He nodded, so I continued, subtly reminded of the day when I told him I loved him for the first time. “I know that you’re gonna say how I need to finish my semester, but I want you to know that I want to stay. I love you, and it’s hard to be away from you. San José is your home for the rest of the season, and Pittsburgh isn’t the same without you. I’d follow you anywhere, babe, I need you to know that, so you know how much I love you.”

“C-can I talk now?” he asked tentatively, trying to make sure that I wouldn’t reprimand him for cutting me off again.

“Go ahead.”

“I know that you would drop everything in a second to come be out here with me. And I’m glad to know that, I am, but because I know you’d do that, that’s why I can’t let you.” He leaned his head back so he could look at my face, but I couldn't keep massaging him so I ran my hands down to his biceps. Kris reached up and awkwardly touched my cheek in his backwards position. “If you stayed here, I would be so happy. I really miss knowing that you wouldn’t be here when I’d be coming back after practice, seeing you sitting on the floor with all your books open and studying. Eating a nasty MTO for lunch. The Weather Channel playing soft jazz in the background because you say it helps you concentrate even though it gets on my nerves like nobody’s business.”

Giggling, I relived the memories with Kris as he recounted them, and it made me misty-eyed. He continued, “Nothing compares to the feeling I get when I realize that you’re waiting for me when I get back into town from a road trip—or even that you’re going to be here after practice, or that you’re in the arena watching me play. The only feeling that dwarfs that is how proud I am of you for everything you’ve accomplished and everything you’re doing for yourself back in Pittsburgh. How far you’ve come, and how far you’re going to go.” He grabbed my left hand with his and pressed it against his chest, over his heart. “I love you and I would love to have you with me always, but I would miss being able to brag about how strong and smart my girlfriend is and how she’s kicking ass and taking names out there if she drops out.”

Instantly, I dissolved into tears; I liked making Kris proud as much as he said he liked feeling proud of me. Besides him, who was the last person to say that about me? That I made them proud? That they bragged about me? It had been so long that I’d forgotten. The flood of emotion started as something happy and fulfilling, because I felt overjoyed for being the cause of Kris’s delight. Hugging him from behind, I pressed my forehead against the nape of his neck and squeezed him.

But he couldn’t be proud of me unless I gave him a reason to feel that way, and right now I couldn’t give him that reason. Smart, yeah maybe... but strong? I was falling apart at the prospect of leaving in two more days. I was struggling with having to go back to Pittsburgh where I could attend class because I would miss him so much. That’s when the tears turned sad.

“But I can’t do it,” I told him shakily. “I can’t physically walk away from you to get on a plane and leave you. For two whole months! Two weeks was hard, but it wasn’t so bad because I was excited about coming out here to spend my break with you. I told myself that it was just like a road trip, and I said it over and over, but I knew better. You weren’t coming back home to me. But two months? That’s four times as long. Four times as hard.”

In my head, I could picture a repeat of our last separation at the Pittsburgh airport happening all over again in San José: me struggling to keep my composure until Kris was out of sight, before I break down into an emotional wreck because it was going to be so long before I could see him again. There wouldn’t be the shock of his trade to numb us; we’d have to feel the rawness of sheer emotion. I felt the sadness clog my throat and stifle my breathing, choking me.

One of my tears streaked down my cheek and dripped onto his bare skin. He grunted and leaned forward so his back wasn’t resting against my chest anymore. That should have made it easier for my lungs to suck in some air, but it felt even more impossible with him not touching me. Kris turned to face me. His voice was gruff with concern and frustration when he spoke to me again. “See? This is why I didn’t want to talk about this before we had to. I don’t want you to cry, when we should be enjoying our remaining time together. We’re wasting the time that we have left.”

He took me into his arms and pulled me against him. I needed to do this. I needed to cry and weep and be held and say how I was feeling about this whole situation and expel all these thoughts that had been on my mind while he was away in Vancouver. That’s what this entire trip had been about, after all: being together for a week before one of us had to leave again. If Kris had had a break and I didn’t, then he would have come out to see me; this week was supposed to be a way for us to enjoy each other’s company while we had the opportunity.

But I couldn’t enjoy our time now with this storm cloud on the horizon. Even though I knew Kris didn’t like this just as much as I didn’t, and there was nothing that either of us could do to change it—well, of course, besides me dropping out of university which Kris said was completely out of the question—but I still had to vent these emotions, if nothing else. Talking wasn’t going to fix a goddamn fucking thing, but I needed him to hear me out regardless and listen to all my fears and anger regarding the situation and my insecurities about being able to handle it. I had to cry and rage and fume and whine, and I needed Kris to be his strong, confident self and reassure me that we were gonna get through it just fine. If I did this now, then the scene at the airport wouldn’t have to be so messy because it would be mostly out of my system.

“And I don’t wanna waste our time, I wanna enjoy what we’ve got left, but how can I do that when I hate what has to come after? And how do I survive two whole fucking months without you?”

I didn’t want to put Kris through this, to make him be the strong one again. When he got traded, I had my mini-breakdown, and then I was okay enough to drive him to the airport and hug and kiss him, warn him against skanky puck bunnies, and see him off as he embarked on a brand new time of his life. But this was so different from that. Even if the team wasn’t doing so well as a whole, Kris was playing some amazing hockey, and he was making a name for himself out here. Things were looking good for him, and I didn’t have that luxury back in Pittsburgh, where life seemed daunting and bleak.

Just the thought of going back to Pittsburgh was killing me. No one was waiting for me back there, or looking forward to me coming back from my spring break. Tubby was back in Philly attending classes, my boyfriend was staying here, and I had no family that cared. I could always hang out with Kelsey and Heather, or some of the other girlfriends if I were really that desperate, and maybe it would be easier now that I got to see firsthand how well Kris was doing with his new team. But it was still going to be infinitely lonelier, and that fueled the fire of my tears. I wanted to tell him all this, everything that was swirling around in my head, but none of it would come out of my mouth.

He held onto me and rocked me as I sobbed. “Shh. Come on, it’s okay, Joey, honey, it’s okay,” he cooed and repeated, trying to be calming and reassuring. “We’ll find a way, Jo, because we have to. We made it through this first time, right?”

“Barely,” I eked out, struggling for words. I wrapped my arms around his hard, fit body since he wasn’t wearing a shirt and then pressed my cheek against his chest, feeling his heartbeat reverberate through his sternum. The steady sound was soothing and lulling as I stayed as close to him as possible.

His chest heaved with a sigh. I felt the movement of his muscles and sinew as I leaned against him and moved with him. “I’m just as anxious about this as you are. I don’t want this to happen just as much as you don’t. But we’ve got to enjoy these next two days together and not ruin them by moping around and being sad. We’ll be sad enough when it finally does happen and you leave. Seriously, we’ve gotta take this one step at a time. Let’s worry about the separation when it finally happens.”

His words struck a chord and resonated within me; I used to say something similar to Tubby all the time. Carpe diem. Shaking my head, I tried to clear my mind and figure out what the hell was going on here. My exact words to my best friend were coming back to haunt me: “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.”

Oh God, what was happening to me?

“Is something wrong, Jo?” Kris asked, gazing down at my face.

The only thing that was still bugging me rested in the fact that I knew, for sure, that the future held some hardship for me. I had been miserable without Kris for two weeks, and now I had to quadruple that. Conversely, I knew what the future held after that: an entire summer of just me and Kris, with the only things interrupting our fun together being my summer courses and his summer training routines. And then, after that, sunny California.

When I didn’t answer him, Kris questioned me further, “You love me, don’t you?” His hand slid up under my shirt and rubbed my back, moving higher until his fingers grazed the lines of the tattoo across my shoulder blade. It was like he was reminding me of all the ways he’d changed me and helped me learn to be stronger. For him, though, it seemed to be an absentminded thing that he wasn’t even aware that he was doing.

“Duh. Of course. So much, babe. More than I could ever say.”

“And I love you with all my heart. You mean the world to me, Joey. You are my world. And that’s how we’re gonna get through this. Knowing you love me is what got me through the past two weeks, and it’ll get me through the next two months—the next two years, the rest of my life, if it came to that. Which I sure as hell hope it doesn’t, but you get my point. So as much as I’m not looking forward to this, I know that something like a couple of months or a few thousand miles can’t possibly wreck what we share.”

I nodded, thinking that I agreed with him. Ever since Kris and I had gotten together, I had touted on and on about how we shared this deep, emotional connection because we understood each other so completely and we were open about everything and anything. If something as silly as some time apart was capable of ruining what we had, then what kind of connection was that? Nothing could interfere with our relationship unless we let it. And I wasn’t going to let that happen—no way, no how. So I would suck it up and soldier on.

“It’s only two months,” I sighed, coining my new mantra. “Other couples have gone through worse, right? Being apart for longer. Not even being able to talk as frequently as we can. Right?”

Kris nodded and smiled a little bit. “Yeah, for sure. Think of people, like, in the army. They go away for sometimes a year or more at a time. We’re lucky in comparison to that.”

“It’s all about perspective, I guess. We’ll still get to talk every day, and I mean, you’ll have hockey to keep you busy, and I have class and work. It’ll go by fast, right?” I was desperately trying to find a way to rationalize this in a way that would make it less painful.

He knew what I was trying to do, and he encouraged it. “So fast. You won’t even realize it. Like no time at all.”

“And it’s temporary, too. I mean, once summer rolls around—”

“Okay, I have to cut you off there,” Kris interrupted. “I don’t want to think about summer yet. Is that okay, Jo? I mean, as soon as either of us is finished, like, we’ll be together, but... I can’t think about the end of my season or this summer or what’s going to happen this summer, because I don’t wanna... jinx it.”

“Since when did you get superstitious?”

Kris reddened a little, tucking the wisps of his hair behind his ears. “It’s a hockey thing. Barring complete catastrophe, we’re in the playoffs. And as long as you make it into the second season, anything is possible. I can’t think that far in advance, because if I do any planning around what I think will happen.... I mean, the game is fickle enough, you know? I can’t think about what happens if we win, or if we lose. You understand, don’t you, Jo?”

“I thought you were the master of your own destiny?” I teased.

“No, I just control what I can. And I train hard so I can be as effective as possible when I’m on the ice. But there’s so much that I don’t have control over. In hockey, there’s so much left to chance. Trust me, when we can be together, we will be. But I can’t predict what’s going to happen, and trying to talk about what happens this summer, or when my summer will even begin.... You get it, though, right?”

For some reason, Kris needed me to understand. We were both filled with such contradictions, and everything used to seem so black and white. He had a point; he played the season one game at a time, and the playoffs needed that same attitude. And right now, that was the same approach we needed for our relationship, too. One hurdle at a time. We’d reunite as soon as we could, and once Kris’s season was over—whenever that would happen—we’d figure out the summer and I’d register for whatever courses I could.

“Can we talk about next year then?”

“What about next year? Jo, I don’t know what I can promise you. It’s the same situation like it would have been in Pittsburgh. If I don’t get a contract extension from the Sharks, I’ll be an RFA come July first. I don’t know what the GM’s priorities are right now, but I’m not the only one whose contract and obligations may be up for the team. Marleau, Nabokov.... And if I get other offers, the Sharks could match it or let me walk. I just, I don’t know. I wish I had concrete answers for you, about this summer and next season, so we could figure out what’s next for us, but I can’t. I want to know just as badly what’s going to happen, so I know what I have to offer you and what I can give and promise to you, but I can’t, and I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry,” I told him, backing away from enough to hold his face in my hands. “You put way too much pressure on yourself. Your love is your promise to me, that you care about me and we’ll make this work. And that’s all I really need. Distance, time apart... it sucks and I hate it and I wish we didn’t have to go through it, but if it came down to it, I wouldn’t change it. I mean, I don’t want you to quit hockey or not play or lose just so I can have you close. I wouldn’t take back the trade, either, because you’re doing so good out here. Really coming into your own. And it means a lot to me that you care so much about making sure I don’t abandon the things I want, either.”

“Your dreams are what make you, you. And I wouldn’t change a thing about you or what you want, because that’s what I fell in love with. I love the way your face lights up when you think about finally getting the chance to do what you’ve always been interested in. Like when we go stargazing or when we were at the observatory. I may not want to plan out the next few months, but I know I wanna be there the day you get your diploma.”

That kind of long-term commitment was enough to compensate for the uncertain immediate future. And whether Kris liked it or not—or wanted to hear about it or not—I had the perfect plan. When Kris got re-signed to the Sharks, I’d begin the application process to UC Santa Cruz to become a transfer student. Kris may not have wanted to jinx himself by thinking ahead, but I wasn’t worried. I had it all figured out, and if—no, when—Kris won his second Cup, I’d surprise him with my well-thought out, planned strategy, and it would be just another thing to happy about all summer long.

“Well, I’m gonna do it in three years,” I told him. “So I’ll graduate when I’m twenty-three, only a year behind my original schedule.”

“Really? That’s pretty ambitious,” he remarked playfully.

“Well, someone once told me that anyone can make anything happen as long as they put their minds to it and work hard.”

Kris chuckled. “Sounds like a pretty smart guy.”

I shrugged. “Eh. I guess so. Pretty cute, though, which is all I care about. Brains are overrated.”

We both laughed lightly, our conversation coming to a rolling halt. “So, do you feel better about this?”

“Not really. I’m glad it’s all out in the open, though. I still don’t want it to happen, but...” I sighed, remembering my new mantra. “It’s only for two months. It could be worse.”

“I know it’s not perfect, but I think it’s the best we can do under these circumstances.” I nodded in agreement with him. “Now, no more talk about about this until Sunday, okay?” Again, I nodded. He rubbed my back and asked a third question. “Does this mean we can go to bed now? I’m fucking tired.”

For a third time, I wordlessly assented with a bob of my head. Kris scooted off the bed and hurried into the bathroom, so he could finally brush his teeth. I turned off the light and pulled back the covers, ready to get comfy cozy in bed with my boyfriend for a good night’s sleep.

As Kris slipped between the sheets with me, I felt his hands pull at the tie of my pants. I called him out on it. “What are you doing? I thought you said you were tired.”

“I am. I just want you to take your clothes off.”

I laughed at him. “Why? Then I’ll be cold.”

His hands pushed the elastic waistband of the sweats over my hips, taking my panties with them accidentally. I reached down and pulled them back up as my sweats were removed. “And I’ll warm you up.” Then he tugged at my gray hoodie, leaving me in his black Kasüal shirt. I shivered and sidled up against him as he put his arms around me, and we nestled into a comfortable position. “Better, huh?”

“You just wanted to cuddle,” I mumbled against his chest, my mouth curling into a smile.

“Men don’t cuddle,” he informed me.

Biting my lip, I tried to stop myself from laughing at his line of bullshit. That didn’t work; I giggled at him, but he was too exhausted to make another macho comment. I was tired, too, and it wasn’t long before we were both fast asleep.

10 comments:

  1. Honestly Jay... you and K are so hard on yourselves. Anytime either of you preface an update by saying how disappointed your are with it, it always ends up fantastic!
    I'm so glad they had this conversation and even more happy it happened calmly without any irrational flipouts.
    Jo lementing on how she had no one to return in Pitt really got to me.. because it's the sad truth. and Kris affirming how much he truly loves and cares for, and called her his world made me melt. Loved it as usual. and I'm so not looking forward to Jo's break being over.

    -Saf

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  2. Hmm, I think I'll pull a Zigh here for a change. The post is kind of twisty and turny, so I think that will work:

    "I could feel the knots in his corded muscle, so I pressed my thumbs deep into the tissue and moved them in symmetrical circles." I really like your perfect physical details and the way they paint a complete picture for the reader. In this case, I now want a neck massage. I'll seek one out after I finish commenting.

    "I really miss knowing that you wouldn’t be here when I’d be coming back after practice..." And then Kris describes in detail how she studies, obviously something he thinks about and replays in his head. The little intimacies of living together are so romantic and lovely.

    He's proud of her for going to school and studying and succeeding, in a way that he hasn't done. And she wants to make him proud but finds it too hard to leave. Sometimes their relationship reminds me of that short story, Gift of the Magi, where giving in love requires sacrifice of what you love most.

    "We’re wasting the time that we have left.” I don't know if this is the difference between men and women or pragmatists and romantics, but it's an issue that crops up again and again. Someone wants to talk and someone doesn't. There's no answer, but the chasm is always looms in relationship.

    Then the whole question of planning for the future with all kinds of uncertainty. Which is a lot like reading this story, you think you know what's going to happen next, and you're often wrong. I am anyway.

    And these lines:
    “Eh. I guess so. Pretty cute, though, which is all I care about. Brains are overrated.”
    and
    “Men don’t cuddle,”
    Just because they're funny.

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  3. The Weather Channel playing soft jazz in the background because you say it helps you concentrate -> I'm not the only one who does this... or just when I'm reading for background noise.

    “Men don’t cuddle,” he informed me. -> Ha, reminds me of my comment to my boyfriend that girls don't poo.

    Great update and I'm going to echo the above comment, you're too hard on yourself. Your writing is fantastic! Really, it is. :)

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  4. <3
    They made me sooo sad! haha
    It was bothering me that she was so upset and they were gonna be apart!!
    Good job, really. It got through haha

    "Men don't cuddle" HAHA suuuure they don't!

    Loved it!!
    Can't wait for more!

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  5. sigh. This story makes me sigh, a lot. It is so emotional, romantic, deep.....

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  6. It's all too beautiful. I can't pick just one thing. I'll say ditto to MelTing's comment!

    I don't know why but this little part spoke to me.
    ** “You love me, don’t you?” His hand slid up under my shirt and rubbed my back, moving higher until his fingers grazed the lines of the tattoo across my shoulder blade. It was like he was reminding me of all the ways he’d changed me and helped me learn to be stronger. For him, though, it seemed to be an absentminded thing that he wasn’t even aware that he was doing.**
    Like he wasn't aware of touching the tattoo anymore than he is aware of how much he has helped her.

    Of course **“Men don’t cuddle,” he informed me.** Too cute!!

    I am a little worried...
    **Just the thought of going back to Pittsburgh was killing me. No one was waiting for me back there, or looking forward to me coming back from my spring break.**
    She may not know it but, I think Dave is looking forward to her return.

    I'm sorry but I have learned to ignore it you say you aren't happy with a chapter, because you are too hard on yourself. It was amazing!
    Thank you.

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  7. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.

    I knew their conversation would be perfect and everything, but reading it makes me feel a lot better.

    They didn't solve a whole lot, and I know it seems insurmountable (word?) but I just really feel like Jo needed to get that off of her chest. It is so true to life that sometimes you need to cry and complain just so that the other person hears you whether they know what you are thinking or not. Two months is a long time, but it shouldn't be tough for these two with the incredible bond that they have. Saying that, I feel bad for Jo who feels like she is going home to no one, it's sad to think that she is so isolated that the only person that cares about her or wants her or understands her in her life is Kris and Tubby. I want Jo to make some real friends or Kris to realize that she can pursue her dreams in places other than Pittsburgh. It's definitely better for their trip to be real and honest and maybe a little sombre at some points rather than feigning happiness and nonchalance the entire time and at the end of it regretting that you never got to say what you needed to say.

    I hope the end of their trip can be magical and happy even in the face of their sad conversation, and that 'only two months' and 'not so bad' can pull Jo through. I am interested to see what happens with Dave when she gets back and if he approaches her about everything those stupid girls said. She really needs someone in Pittsburgh to keep her busy while she's not in class like Kris' teammates do when they aren't at work so that time will pass quicker.

    You writing is insane and I loved every single word of this even though everything is relatively unresolved and Jo didn't get to propose moving to San Jose cause Kris kind of held that discussion off. I definitely understand not wanting to talk about the potential move or potential play offs and all that, especially surrounded my superstitious hockey players, whether Kris is one of them or not. But, I think it would have been a relief for him if he could have just listened and realized that her dreams and wishes can move around and accomodate his as much as he can accomodate him and his hockey.

    Bah, so excited for more, Jay. This was seriously wondeful, especially with the 'Men don't cuddle' bit to leave us smiling!

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  8. Alright, I want to do this one justice, but I won't... so I'll just give you my ABSOLUTE favourite parts (because the whole update was pretty much my fave part...)

    Annnnd away I go...

    “I wanna stay out here with you.”
    ^^ I don't think I could say it better myself. I understand the obligations and all the issues that would be caused by Jo just giving up on everything back home and moving out to Cali... but really, that's where I'm at. I understand that it can't happen, but it's nice to sum up everything I need right now, in one sentence.

    "Giggling, I relived the memories with Kris as he recounted them, and it made me misty-eyed."
    ^^ I got misty-eyed too, and he's not even talking about me lol. I love how Kris is always able to recall the most simplest of things when he needs to. It just makes someone feel so loved and so special when their significant other recalls all those little things about them that sometimes they don't even remember themselves. (Did that make sense? IDK... it's late, forgive me lol)

    "Besides him, who was the last person to say that about me? That I made them proud? That they bragged about me? It had been so long that I’d forgotten."
    ^^ Can I insert a sad face here? Poor Jo! I think I say that too much but, really. The only thing that makes me remotely ok with this, is that now she has Kris telling her how proud he is of her =)! I mean, we all knew it, but it's still nice to get the confirmation when someone says this to you.

    "There wouldn’t be the shock of his trade to numb us; we’d have to feel the rawness of sheer emotion."
    ^^ You already know how I feel about her having to leave and go back to an empty place without anyone around to spend time with. Is this a weird place to start thinking about Dave? His name was Dave right?

    “You just wanted to cuddle,” I mumbled against his chest, my mouth curling into a smile.
    “Men don’t cuddle,” he informed me.
    ^^ L O L Ok. I love that whenever you have deep, dramatic talks, you always bring it back down to a level that leaves me still wanting more, but also satisfied with where things are for the moment.
    I think it's a tribute to your incredible writing... that you can make me go from sad to laughing out loud in one update.

    On to the next one!

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  9. You did it again! Great work, marvelous chapter. It's like I was in the room feeling their panic of being apart again.

    "Your love is your promise to me..." Awwwwwww!

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