Every Heard

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Chapter 13: Goodbye Mister, Hello Victor

Following the Tin Angel show, Victor would visit my apartment several times... After gigs and rehearsals, I would cook him a meal.  He would give me a guitar lesson.  My first real guitar lessons.  I was a horrible student... But I loved hearing him talk about theory, show me tricks and licks.  Our conversations would last into the early morning hours, but he would never cross the imaginary boundary between friend and suitor.  
 
He said things like, "I just got out of a relationship.  I think the most I could look for right now is a fuck-buddy," and, "I don't make a move on a girl unless I'm sure she wants me to."  
 
I felt safe.  I would be single.  I would learn to play the guitar well... Being single seemed to be a sort of social currency.  Men wanted to be around me, spend time with me.  It did not mean I had to sleep with them, but that possibility seemed to motivate them to help me... and I needed a lot of help.  I did not know the first thing about being a musician, besides letting these beautiful songs pour out.  That part was natural, but the rest- I had to learn by observing others, making friends, and making mistakes...
 
One day I saw an odd post from Victor on Facebook, "After years of playing with folk bands, I finally wrote a little folk tune."
 
It's for you. I tried to ignore my inclination that he was feeling anything for me.  My inclination that I was feeling anything for him.
 
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The end of September... the day before I abandoned the little blue rock, I took myself to an open mic in the burbs.  Victor was there.  Odd, this was not his usual scene.  Still, he knew people there, not a clear sign that he was pursuing me in particular -maybe he was just trying to network in a new circle.  We chatted... at the end of the evening, he walked me to my car.  Later, Victor would recount that I looked sad as we parted ways.  I was- so many nights we had extended our time together into the early morning hours.  But at that point, I could not reconcile a role for him in my life yet.
 
In truth, I felt torn, wanting Victor to claim me... harboring the hope that the Gypsy would call me after midnight, when it was officially October.  I sat in the park, where I had once upon a time sat with him, watching him smoke an endless chain of unfiltered Camels... alone.
 
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Days later I received text messages that appeared to be written October 1st... A technological glitch?  A sign?  It didn't matter... after my Reiki session, my open mic feature, my almost kiss with Victor, it didn't matter.
 
The same week, I was hosting an open mic... where both Ben and Mr. Mister were hanging out for the evening.  The festivities had only just begun when I received an urgent text message from my brother, "Call asap."
 
My dad was in the hospital.  He had been experiencing a serious heart condition for over a year by that time.  It caused his heart to speed up to a dangerous rate.  The only way to slow it down was to reset it with a defibrillator.  I fell apart on the inside but I had already started drinking... I decided I would have to go home- tomorrow.  Tonight, I was going to get very drunk.
 
A strange mess happened in my mind.  Like I needed to reach out, as though whoever I chose to turn to would be the person I really wanted... This was foolish, of course.  But my brain works in strange ways, and when it gets one of these ideas- it does not want to let it go.
 
Ben was the first person to ask what was wrong.  I told him.  His parents were old, and he understood what it was like to watch a chronic condition continue for years... But I was disgruntled with myself for choosing to confide in him.
 
I drank... a lot.  I smoked... and when my gal pal, Lily tried to follow me back to Ben's apartment, along with Mr. Mister and several other gents, I drunkenly told her, "If you come along, I'm done with you... Just because I'm throwing my life away apparently, doesn't mean you have to-"
 
I watched a little piece of her heart break in her eyes as she rode away on her bicycle. 

At Ben's apartment I ran immediately to the bathroom, finding the toothbrush he had immediately purchased for me when we started dating, still in his medicine cabinet months after we had stopped seeing one another.  I took it, ran out onto the balcony where he and Mr. Mister sat rolling joint, and threw it at the garbage can in front of them... It missed.  Damn.  That would have been much cooler if it had went in- I bent down, picked it up, placed it in the can, then went over to the railing of the balcony, where I found myself dry-heaving.
 
Mr. Mister looked to Ben for an explanation, and Ben obliged.  Neither of them offered me any consoling.
 
We smoked and drank more... joked and laughed and the time rolled by- Then something about the hour suddenly struck me, and I was running for the door.  Ben's front door was a complicated mess; two locks that had to be twisted just so, as the doorknob was turned.  In my drunken, high -stupor it felt like a combination lock... Wait, was the top lock locked, horizontal or vertical?  Do I twist while I turn the bottom lock?  Lefty loosey?  Or is it backwards?  I told myself, Slow down.  Be methodical.  There are only so many combinations to try.  I flipped through the configurations, controlling my breath to not become frustrated.  Abracadabra, it opened!  As the door swung open, I heard a burst of laughter from the guys upstairs.  In my mind they were completely aware of what I was doing and making commentary on my escape.  Free!
 
I raced home on my bike, correcting more than one wrong turn... Inside my apartment I found one of my pictures had fallen off the wall.  Broken glass scattered across the floor.  Restless, I cleaned the mess.  I wanted to get into my car at that moment, but I knew it was not safe... The next thing I knew I was listening to a ringtone.  What are you doing?
 
"Hello?"  his sleepy voice answered.
 
"Victor.  Hi.  You're sleeping.  I'm sorry."
 
"Echo?  Are you okay?"
 
"No.  Yeah.  I mean..."  Why are you calling him?  What do you want him to do for you?  He barely knows you.  "I just need to calm down and go to sleep... How are you?"  

"Um," He yawned, "Okay.  What's up?"
 
Can you come over?  Can you take me to York?  I need you.  "Um.  I don't want to talk about it.  I just- needed to settle down so I can sleep... and I feel better now.  Thanks."  I kept the conversation brief.  I did not want to go into the details.  I really was okay.  I went to bed.  I awoke early and took myself to York, to the hospital where my grandfather died many years prior.  I took my guitar to my father's room and stayed with him over the next day and night, urging my mother to go home and rest.
 
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I barely slept at all the night I spent in my father's ICU room.  There were many machines monitoring his heart and breathing and whatever all else... I could see that he was afraid to fall asleep.  He recounted the defibrillator experience.  He had thought he was dead.  For several hours I held his hand.  He allowed me to give him Reiki for the first time.  Later he would even request it, "Would you put your hands on me and pray again?"  I stopped worrying about what terminology he used.


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The Gypsy called me while I was at the hospital.  He was comforting to talk to, as his father had recently almost died.  I also confided in him that I sometimes feared that I would never feel free of Mr. Mister...

"I can help you, if you want," he offered.  I accepted.  "Relax.  Close your eyes and imagine the gossamer threads tying you to him.  Now one by one, cut them.  Let them fall away.  Feel yourself become lighter..."

This guided relaxation went on for many minutes.  I remember feeling nearly asleep... What little rest I had gotten had been sleeping in a hospital chair in my father's room. 

We did not talk about the Gypsy's girlfriend.  We did not talk about whether he wanted to see me.  I ignored the situation... But something in me had not let it go entirely.

When my father was stable and moved to a regular wing of the hospital, I made my excuses and headed back to Philadelphia, "I have a hungry kitty waiting at home."  During the ride, I kept thinking of cutting the threads from Mr. Mister... Then without thinking about it, I saw myself also cutting the threads tying me to the Gypsy.  As I did so, I made two stops; I bought beer and paint.  While I shopped for the paint, I called the Gypsy.

"Do you want to see me?"

"Sure.  Let's do that soon."

"Soon?  What's going on?  I haven't asked you about anything... and I know I'm not supposed to-"  A sigh of resignation; I had already realized it, but I had not said it aloud yet.  "Nothing has changed.  Nothing is going to change.  I'm done."

He tried to tell me that he wanted to make a plan to see me, but it wasn't working anymore.  I wasn't interested in being strung along.

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At home I proceeded to get a beer buzz as quickly as possible... and painted... a mess.  Then, out of the blue, I called Victor.  I spoke to him once from the hospital, explaining the situation, apologizing for the 4 am phone call.  This call was different.  For the first time, I found myself wanting to go to his apartment.  I did not have to say much to inspire an invitation.

I tossed the remaining beer into a bag and rolled over to the other side of the city.  I tried to avoid imagining scenarios in my head.  I told myself I just wanted to play music with him...

His bachelor pad was surprisingly tidy.  He was a little embarrassed of his bathroom, as most normal single heterosexual men I have encountered are... mild dust-bunnies making homes in the corners, but overall, quite an adult apartment.  He had real furniture; a dining room table, a couch that was not from Ikea... half of his living room dedicated to his instruments and recording equipment.  Not just another aimless Peter Pan- This man has his college degree in music.  He's got plans that he is really working on.  This man is more than just talk-

I popped open two beers and handed him one, rambling the mess of thoughts from the hospital... We listened to records.  We played guitars and video games... We talked... I asked him to play the "folk tune" he mentioned on Facebook.  Blushing, he obliged-

I got a handful of sand to sell. I got a handful of sand to sell.
I got nothing else- so who the hell is gonna buy what I'm trying to sell.
My clothes are old and torn.  My shoes are old and worn.
And I'm as broke as the day I was born- in clothes so old and torn.

Well, I know that nothin's free.  I don't want no charity.
But this is all I've got, and it would mean a lot-
Buy a handful of sand from me.

There's a girl I wanna impress, and she likes her man well-dressed.
-and that's the cause of all of my distress- This girl I want to impress

I got a handful of sand to sell. I got a handful of sand to sell.
I got nothing else- so who the hell is gonna buy what I'm trying to sell.

........."No one's heard it.  Except you... I definitely wrote it because we were hanging out."

Don't read into it.  He's just being nice to you because he's a nice person.

He caught a glimpse of the magic marker where I had scribbled on my forearm.  "What's that?"

"Oh... It says PERSEVERANCE.  It's something I do to remind myself.  To perseverate means that you do something again and again, for no reason.  Like the brain damaged people I used to give therapy to- They can't control themselves from repeating a word over and over," I explained, "I want to remember to not perseverate.  I want to persevere!  I want to overcome... to stop making the same mistakes."

"Perseverance.  It's a good word," he smiled.

The hours melted away like minutes.  Despite the many nights we had already spent together, we never ran out of things to say or found a need to turn on a movie.  We were occupied with art and books and music.  We had very similar interests but somehow overlapped little in what we had to share and teach one another.  I found myself asking if I could spend the night on his couch.  He said yes.

...I laid there alone for less than fifteen minutes, convincing myself the couch was unbearably uncomfortable before I let myself knock on his door, "Victor."

"Yeah, Echo?  You okay?"

"...Would it be okay if I slept in your bed?"

"Uh, sure."

I laid down beside him.  In the darkness I felt -for just a moment- his hand begin to slip beneath my neck to put his arm around me.  Yes, you can, if you want.  Just hold me... Or you can take advantage of me- I'm a wreck.  Maybe if you're not a nice guy I can stop myself from liking you.  He hesitated, pulled it back, and we fell asleep, like brother and sister.

...In the morning he suggested we get breakfast and his local coffee shop.  When he let me know that he only had enough cash for his own meal, I opted to pay for everything.  Money was the one thing I was not concerned about at that time.  We ate and went our own separate ways.

"I think I'm going to see some music at a little bar on this side of town tonight, if you're interested... If you don't want to be alone still," he told me.

"Thanks, I might."

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On my bike ride home, the muses began singing in my mind's ear.  When I got home, I lit a joint and wrote Victor a song:

I don't need no money- no cars or rings
I don't need gold or diamonds- I don't like shiny things
No, I don't need no one to buy me- no more new shoes
No, I don't need nothing, no one, but I want you

(CHORUS)
'Cause I have everything, I have all that I need
and if you feel the same, you could share this life with me
and we'd have everything, that money can't buy
and if you feel the same, there'd be no mountain that we can't climb
and we'd share everything, that two people could need
and if you feel the same, you should be with me

I don't need nothing that I can hold in my hand
Don't need no house, no fancy car, or even- a piece of land
No, I don't need nothing that money can ever buy
I don't need no anchor when I'm just learning to fly

(CHORUS)

'Cause I've been waiting for so long- to finally be found
with my head in the clouds, and one foot on the ground
No, I don't need no one to tell me that the sky is blue
But darlin', the grass, is greener when I'm with you

(CHORUS)

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...Despite this offer, he seemed genuinely surprised to hear from me later that night, asking for the bar address.  It was a hip little joint, hiding above an Ethiopian restaurant.  They served a wide variety of craft bottle beers and strong mixed drinks.  I let him buy me a beer.  We discussed the selection- That's right.  I'm a girl who likes good beer.  I see you do too.  Excellent.

The music was fantastic.  The Perseverance Band.  We both looked at each other knowingly.  "Perseverance," he whispered in my ear over the loudness of the music.  I smiled.

Up until that point, I had been afraid to openly discuss the spiritual journey I was experiencing... I began to feel like I was changing so much- as a musician, as a Reiki practitioner, as a person- that no one would really know who I was, who I had been... Here was this man that I could tell everything, who never looked at me like I had two heads.

Suitor, friend, or family member; there was only so much talking I could do before I would recognize that look in their eyes- The "she's from another planet" look.  Here was proof for him... That words followed me around.  That signs showed me I was in the right place at the right time.  I'm supposed to be here... with you?

When we went back to his apartment, I played my new tune for him- The song I wrote for him, my response to his.  I asked to spend the night again.  This time I went directly into his bed.  If you need my permission.  If you're still wondering if I want you to-  This time he did put his arm around me... This time he put his lips to mine.  Sparks... beautiful, confusing sparks.

"Wait.  I really want to play music with you... and my dad... and I'm kind of vulnerable right now," I paused.

"I know.  That's why I didn't before... But I wanted to that night, at your apartment," he was trying to explain that he did not want to take advantage of my vulnerable state- that this was not a sudden decision.

"I don't want to ruin anything.  My band is my priority right now... You know my heart has been broken a lot lately, and I'm not a-"  I hesitated to say the word, "fuck-buddy."

"No, I didn't think that..."  He pulled away, and we laid like brother and sister again, balanced.

"I like you."

"I like you too."

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