Home For The Holidays: Part Two

26 Dec

Celebrities Dressed for Christmas in the Past (1).jpg

I’ll admit, I added that last line of the last post for dramatic effect. It sounded good though, didn’t it? Like a real International Woman of Mystery?

I hadn’t been this upset since that night in Boston. Then, I fled. Now, I write.

I went to this coffee shop downtown on Main Street, called Caffe Espresso, a dark little place that plays Billie Holliday music and always has Christmas lights up, and feels out of place in my little industrial hometown. I used to go there in high school. They served late-night coffee, so it was one of the only places I could go as a 17-year-old without a fake I.D. and feel like I was really in some divey place in New York City. Like immersing myself in James Bond movies, going there helped me pass the long winters.

Sitting there writing, recalling all the events from the last day, I felt myself calming down, though I was still ruminating my brother’s hurtful comments. Then, I felt a presence at my shoulder.

“Jen Gabor?”

I looked up out of my writing daze at a woman with a pixie cut and a leather jacket, with piercing green eyes. It took me a moment to recognize her.

“Nikki?!” I stood up and hugged my long-lost friend from high school. “What a surprise!”

“At Caffe Espresso!” Nikki said, laughing.

In high school, Nikki was that cool friend on the fringes of the student population whose parents let her go to concerts in bigger cities on school nights. Her dad taught her to drive his motorcycle, and she wore his vintage t-shirts to school. But she wasn’t a cliché badass girl either. She didn’t really get into trouble and attended school most days. She was one of the smartest kids in school, and one of our best tennis players too. Nikki and I had a lot of advanced placement classes together, and she always offered an eloquent, opposing point of view without pretension.

I’d go to her house sometimes where she’d play CDs from bands I’d never heard of and we’d talk about whether or not Jane Austen was a good writer, and whether or not Leonardo di Caprio was too good looking to be a talented actor.

We grew apart when we went to college, for no other reasons than distance and diverging interests. At that moment at Caffe Espresso I could not have been happier to see her.

“What are you doing in town? Do you live here?” I asked her.

“No way. I would never live in this shithole. I live in Albuquerque now. I’m home for the holidays,” she said, the sarcasm thick in her voice.

“Ha. Me too.”

I invited her to join me at my little café table. I pushed down my laptop so I could see her across the table.

“So what are you doing here?” Nikki asked me.

“I’m home for the holidays, too, from Denver. My brother and I got in a fight and I had to get out of my house.”

“Fucking family,” Nikki shook her head. “They don’t know when to shut the fuck up.”

“Right?” We paused for a moment, as we each took a sip of our drinks.

“Didn’t I hear you were engaged or something?” she asked after a minute.

“Uh, yeah. We broke up.”

“That sucks. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s fine. It wasn’t meant to be.”

“What happened?”

I hesitated. I hadn’t told anyone the whole truth about my story, except in this blog. Though Nikki and I were good friends in high school, I wasn’t at all sure that she would care about my story. I was just vulnerable enough, though, to launch into the story in the hope of getting some validation.

Nikki was the best. She listened intently, acted surprised and indignant at all the right parts, and seemed genuinely interested in how I fared at the end of all of it. It felt like I was talking to a best friend, and I realized how much I had missed having a best friend. I really owed her one.

At the end, I told her about the blog.

“That’s really cool that you’re writing,” she said.

“You think?”

“For sure. Do you know how many people sit around moping about their problems, blaming them on everyone else? You’re actually doing something. You’re doing what you love and what I think, since high school, you were meant to do: write. Plus, this whole feminine power-slash-adventure thing is pretty fucking inspiring.”

I smiled, huge. It was just what I wanted to hear.

“And you know what?” Nikki continued. “Fuck your brother. Brooklyn is the most fake place I’ve ever been to. You’re real, and you know who you are. He’s just trying to fit in with all the assholes who need to live in an exclusive location to feel elite, because they’re otherwise too mediocre for anyone to notice them.”

She was so right. I was so focused on presenting a new version of myself that I didn’t even consider that Alek’s criticism was mostly a projection of his own insecurities. Taking that perspective made me feel better about what had happened that night – he was just another dude dumping his feelings on someone else because he couldn’t bear to deal with them himself.

Nikki and I chatted awhile longer. Just as she was putting on her coat, she asked me for the link to my blog. I was surprised, but I supplied it to her, though I doubt she’ll give it much thought.

When I got home, Alek ignored me, and he did the rest of the time we were home. Nikki’s empowering words in my head, I decided to care less about it. Instead, I focused on all the things I loved about being home – the lights, my mom’s baking, playing cribbage with my dad – and compartmentalized my fight with my brother into the category of things I don’t have time for.

But.

The positive energy I got from Nikki has faded and now there’s this little feeling I can’t shake. It’s that feeling that follows denial, when you realize with horror that you are resisting someone else’s accusations because you can’t bear the inevitable truth that they might be right about who you are at your worst.

Was Alek right? Am I the same person I’ve always been, just with a new haircut? It’s a devastating thought, the belief that none of us can really change, that we’re only capable of presenting variations of a fixed core.

Surely change isn’t impossible. And I’m going to prove it.

-Jennifer

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