Saturday, 17 February 2018

First times

The first time is always uncomfortable.

The first time you tell a white lie, fall in love, or break someone's heart can make you blue. The first time you crack a bone, bruise flesh or push through recovery can leave you skittish. The first time you scrape your car and hide the paintwork will rattle your guilt. The first time you speak up, and let someone hear you, will shake your voice. The first time someone touches you can start a fire. Nothing about these things is ever easy.

Then there is the first time you allow someone else to see you, and know you, after living in hiding because of what he did. The first time someone else makes you smile, without making you cry afterwards.

Firsts in life are always terrifying.

When you've shared a life with someone for four and a half years, been devastated by them and manipulated to within an inch of your sanity, pain becomes your partner. I was used to waking up and seeing ghosts in glass, I was okay with sleeping alone and taking care of my heart. I was doing fine without him.

The stitches came out a long time ago.

I'd been cold since the spring. I was bored and unruffled by boys pretending to be great men, and I was disinterested in togetherness. When I woke up to October, I was expecting for big things to die or change with the wind. I wasn't quite ready for new things to come in with the weather, or to feel plates shift beneath me. I was cautious of being left unsupervised, as if I couldn't trust my own judgement anymore.

I've noticed lately how nerves sit differently in people. Nervousness manifests quietly in some, but boils over in others. I'm not graceful about my nervous self, and there are plenty of people who can back me up on that.

For me, nerves are not butterflies. I killed them long ago, because I had no use for living things in the end. For me, it's a knotty, complicated mass around my windpipe. It's breathless, and heavy. It's nauseating, but almost comforting.

I've suddenly forgotten names and details in faces, lines in palms of hands I used to hold. I don't care so much about loose ends, because there's something else to scare me now.

The first time I wanted to know more was after drinks that I don't remember, a Friday night happenstance. You weren’t new to me, and I only had good intentions. I was wearing Red Carpet Red on my lips, and one way or another, it was only us at the end. I think it rained that night, but I can't quite remember the feeling of getting wet. A curious mind can often be forgetful of other things, other than the object of their curiosity.

This was also the first time I realised my post-breakup logic had been wrong more than once. I said when the time was right, I'd only be interested in someone who was already my friend. I always thought, "Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't", and now I don't know devils at all. It turns out that even I didn't end up how I expected. It's strange how things happen, and how first moments can fix the finality of something else.

I write and I talk (a lot), which means I live an existence of over exposure. The art of subtlety is not something I've mastered, but secrets are a craft. There is history hidden in text messages, fear in every full stop and in the way that my hair covers my cheeks. There is insecurity in the way I look down at my hands, or the way they protect my face at the response of a compliment.

This is new and unfamiliar, strange by design. It's mastery of mental hopscotch, two steps forwards, sideways and backwards. Honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing these days, so I'm just going with it. It could be a foolish pursuit, running on borrowed bravery. I am forthright and tenacious, but always vulnerable. I ignore that loose lips often ruin a thing or two.

I played back the first time and I pause, cut, rewind. I remember the second time I saw you in ordinary circumstances, another chance Friday. Jeans, stubble and Blue Moon for you, faded pink lipstick and Disaronno for me. They noticed.

You like to make me nervous. You know that's what you do, but not in a way controlled by arrogance. In a way that's so calm that it almost irritates me. You know it in a quiet, sure way, like I'm doing exactly what you thought I would.

But you're as unsure as I am.

Backlit by yellow candlelight and wood panelling, you were less mysterious in the dark, with no intentions of wrapping information up in riddles. Incandescence suited your softness. February air meant that my hair dropped to a loose curl, and I wore my trusty uniform of a check shirt and boots.

At first, I wasn't sure where to look or how I should sit. I tend to fidget a lot. The feeling passed. It's natural, easy and my nervous self is almost captivating, a little sweet to the taste. I worry about that sweetness, because I know too much sugar can make us sick. I think I was surprised at how warm it was in the space between us, shaken that opposites actually attract. It feels lighter now, your poker face has gone slack and I'm almost out of wine.

We could make quite a conversation, me with my lyrical tongue, and you with your endearing awkwardness and quiet intellect. We're both funnier than people give us credit for, and we tell stories in different ways. You have this intricate coolness, while I have this way of being annoying, charming and bashful all at once.

If the first time is the only time, I'm glad that it was with you because it helped me forget. It helped me bury the reputation of snakes and scapegoats, it let me burn the curses and excuses, and swallow the flame. If this is something or if this is nothing, I know you're not all the same, after all.

We're both in similar places in our lives, which I think means we'll keep our cards close, just in case. There's no force behind this, no certainty or urgency. Baby steps are the only way to keep people safe.

I'm unscripted, you're out of focus and I’ll wait until the very last moment for a grand finale.

Here's the part where it happens, where someone decides. We're not ready to get carried away.

Slow and steady, this one might pinch a bit.