Strumming the Strings of a Wish

Steve sat on the edge of his bed and fingered a new chord on his acoustic guitar.  A drop of sweat rolled down his forehead.  He’d been practicing for a few hours now and was just starting to tire.  His fingers were hurt and cracking through his calluses.  But, he was eager to show his best friend Tom what he’d been learning the last few months.

Tom met Steve freshman year of college.  They found each other through their campus’s commuter events during orientation.  Tom made the first joke – something perverted – and Steve referenced it to some of their other mutual friends many times throughout their orientation.  Tom was a loyal friend.  Steve considered him sort of kingly the way he constantly read the news and gave accurate advice. 

When Steve brushed the sweat away, he began to play.  Tom sat in Steve’s La-Z-Boy leather recliner across from him and watched him play the next song.  Steve taught himself how to play a few songs the past eight months.  Tom noticed how he played most of those songs very well; the timing between notes was great and he maintained a great rhythm.  He was making a few minor errors, but nothing that wouldn’t happen to the best guitarists.  Tom gave Steve a mini-applause when he finished.

“You taught yourself all those songs?” he asked.

“Yeah, with some help from youtube.  What did you think?”

“Not bad, man.  What inspired you to do all this?”

Steve rolled his eyes, then looked Tom in his pupils.  “You know why.”

“You wrote and published a book of emotional poems for your ex and now this?”

“Well, this isn’t just for her.  I’ve always wanted to learn how to play this baby,” Steve said patting his guitar’s neck, “but now I feel like I need to prove to someone, anyone that I’ve done some personal development over time.”

“And let me guess – you feel like learning the guitar accelerates that process?”

“Exactly,” Steve agreed.  This wasn’t anything new for Tom.  He’d been hearing it for over a year now; I want my girlfriend back.  In spite of the improbabilty of the task at hand, Steve was at least dating other girls.  Well, trying to.  Most of them lost attraction for him because of how quiet Steve is naturally.  Tom felt that, even though his motives behind why he was doing some of these things was wrong, at least he was making strides to improve himself.  “But what did you think of my playing?” Steve asked.

“Very good man,” Tom said.  “You’re very focused.  I can tell the way you keep your eyes on what you’re doing.  The fingers on your left hand are a little slow getting to the right notes, but they do get there in time.  And you definitely taught yourself an awesome playlist in terms of lyrics, beat, and popularity.”  Tom leaned back and raised the legs of the recliner.  “What’s your plan once you officially know what you’re doing?”

“I want to start a band, dude,” he said.  “You’d be the drummer of course because of how talented you are.  Then I want to start touring around Jersey – from Nutley to Cherry Hill to Cape May.  I don’t want to establish any invitations at bars or anything, but I want to play in the open, under the bright sun.  I want people to hear us, to notice us.  And when they ask who we are and why we’re playing, we can make up our own stories.  And I can tell them that I’m rocking to show my ex-girlfriend that I’m a different man.  I want this whole state to know what I’m doing – with the help of my loyal friends.

Think about it.  We’d get to travel to every city, try new amazing restaurants, explore museums and go for long walks in the parks or on the beaches.  There’d be girls everywhere for all of us.  Girls in bikinis and short skirts with low cut tops.  Well – okay I guess I wouldn’t tell them what I’m doing.  But just imagine the fun we’d have!”

Tom laughed.  “You’ve got quite the imagination.  You want to start a New Jersey street band with the purpose of getting Amy back?  Girls don’t mope about at home, you know.  Odds are that we’d play in her town and she’d be off somewhere else… with her new boyfriend.”

“But that’s why we’d play during the day on Saturdays and Sundays.  And I would spread word of what I’m doing.  I’m in it for my ex, you could be in it for fun or to meet a band to join.  Who cares!”

“But that’s not what we’re really doing.  We’d really just be helping you.”

“Well, I can’t have a band where I play every instrument.”

Tom rolled his eyes.  He knew Steve was trying to conceal his egocentrism, but he wanted to see his best friend happy again.  “Okay, so then let’s say we’re playing a song and you see her in the crowd.  What would you do?  Stop?  Address her?  Or play a song that she’d recognize from your relationship?”

“The last one.”

“Which song?”

“Oh, I know exactly which song,” Steve grinned.  “Exactly which.”

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Catastrophic Complacency

Andrew kissed his girlfriend before her front door.  He made a gentle fist with some of her hair in the back of her head with one hand and pulled her in by the hip with the other.  His hand glided up and down her side above her pelvis and found its way to the small of her back.  He continued to pull her closer and let his hand squeeze her rear. 

Melissa released her body into his grip and wrapped both arms around Andrew’s torso.  She used her hands to explore his taut backside.  Feeling his robust body made her throb inside.  Her breath grew heavy, so she withdrew one hand and started to massage the curves of his chest.  His panting aroused her – she felt like Andrew had a deep craving that only she had the recipe to suppress.  Each of them drew the other closer and closer and brushed their lips with exponential passion.  Both breathed restlessly through their noses.

“I want you,” he said, eager and breathless.

Andrew and Melissa were together for a five and a half months now and have been intimate with each other for five of those months.  They met online and things haven’t stopped going well since the first date.  Both in their mid-twenties, they were just starting to grow into a routine with each other around their hectic jobs, so they were growing very comfortable around each other.  They weren’t afraid to share secrets with one another and held a tight companionship.  Andrew told her that he loved her for the first time just two weeks earlier.

“Not tonight,” she said, embarassed.  She dropped her head and put a big smile on her face.  “My parents are home.”

“That hasn’t stopped us before.”

She laughed.  “Yeah, but we didn’t have to walk in while they were waiting for me any of those times.”  Melissa brushed her hair behind her ear and looked into his eyes.  “Listen, there’s something I need to tell you.”

Andrew thought Melissa a beautiful specimen, truly one of God’s masterpieces.  She was short at five foot three and her brown hair flowed with an irreplaceable sexual ambience.  Her blue eyes reminded him of his own and her tight behind blended well with her ample breasts and thin build.  She was very attractive physically, but even more impressive was the fact that she graduated college with honors as a physics major.  She worked in a professional lab helping her collegues operate neutron scattering studies of different materials.  Best of all, she was easy to get along with.  She often surprised Andrew by paying for meals, giving him tickets to new major league baseball parks (seeing all of them was always one of his dreams), and supporting him every time he made any kind of decision.  Andrew found her to be irresistible physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

“What’s up?” he asked, his body still tingling, shaking, and trembling with arousal.

Melissa sighed and diverted her eyes from his.  “I’m not really sure how to say it, but I don’t think this is working out.”

Andrew tilted his head in curiosity.  “What do you mean?”

“Andrew, I’m busy with work and I’ve been trying to get into graduate school and I really feel like I need some time to myself for a while.”  She said.  “I get panic attacks everyday and am always worried about what’s gonna happen.  I just don’t feel like I have room in my life for this right now.”

Andrew watched Melissa’s eyes circle around all of the space around him and never fully make contact with him as she spoke.  It was almost like he suddenly became a piece of furniture to her.  He observed her lips part and come together again, like she was kissing each word that came out of her mouth.  Her tongue licked her upper teeth and whipped back down and he imagined massaging his tongue with hers as he did all those other times before.  She scratched the back of her neck the same way she did when he first met her, when she acted shy and was flush red in the face speaking to him.

“You are right,” he said, very much to her surprise.  “We should stop seeing each other.”

Melissa’s jaw hung open and stood speechless as she tried to account for the miscaclulation.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  She found herself repeating his question.

“My being with you was always a sin under the eyes of God,” he said.  “When my eyes first came upon you, I knew that you were a transcendent creature; beautiful in the light of both sun and moon.  You were like the end of the universe, out of everyone’s reach, but always a thought to dwell and ponder upon.  How do I accomplish that which no man has ever achieved?  How can I fuel the rocket of my desire to have you, to hold you, to love you, and to tell the world about you?  How do I find the words to tell them that you’re even more spectacular up close and that you still manage to blush when you get a peck on the cheek, right on the corner of your lips?  Even your blushing tells me that the absolute best need to feel wanted and desired, like part of a set rather than isolated in superiority.  The star doesn’t make the Christmas tree, the Christmas tree makes the star and I’m your tree.”

Melissa watched him with wonder in her eyes.  She couldn’t believe any of what he had to say.  Did he really want to break up with her when he clearly felt so passionately about her?  Why did he agree with her decision?  Melissa memorized each and every word he said like they composed the best poem ever written – and it was written specially for her.  She finally found to courage to look up at him and his eyes drooled emotion all over her body.  She leaped forward, threw her arms around him, and gave him a big kiss in a way she never had before.

“I love you,” she said for the first time.  Then she let his arms consume her and continued to kiss him with renewed ardor.

Andrew inhaled the steam emanating from her body and succumbed to his addiction of her tobacco kiss.

Journal of the Omitted Man

It was 10:30 on Saturday night and Carl was in the passenger seat of Aaron’s car, talking to him about some of the troubles he’d been experiencing.  It was dark outside, doubly so because of the intense overcast in the sky.  The black clouds viciously circled above, like snakes waiting for the opportune moment to strike their prey.

Carl was recently dumped by a girl in favor of another man.  Normally, he wouldn’t call his best friend for advice, but the number of times it was happening to him was starting to wear his confidence.  It wasn’t that simple, though.  Carl had a girlfriend once, briefly.  And she left him because he wasn’t serious in their relationship.  A few years prior to when he met her, Carl stumbled across some helpful self-improvement material to help his dating life.  He’s able to get three or four dates with many girls without issue now, but that’s about it.  After that, girls just grow bored of him.

He traced his fingers along the folds of his palm in Aaron’s car, listening to the thunder countdown the impending storm. 

“I’m tired of girls,” he said.  “Every girl I date strings me along with a fleeting sense of security when, in reality, every one of them is fantasizing about the other guy they’re seeing behind my back.”

“Girls aren’t easy,” Aaron agreed.  “But it’s no reason for you to get depressed because another girl didn’t like you.”

“No, it’s not, but I’m just losing faith, man.”  Carl looked up from his clammy fingers and wiped them on each leg of his jeans.  “Most of these girls think I have no idea about these other guys, even though their eyes reveal the shattering truth about how much of a regular guy I am to them.  These girls make their choice and all the other men they’re seeing are forgotten like smoke in the air.  I become the man these ‘better’ guys never were; alone, hopeless, grim, depressed.  Then multiply that feeling by every single girl you meet.  It wears on a man.

“And then these girls boast about seeing their men and how great they all are individually while me and all the other guys like me sit at home thinking about how another girl we liked lost attraction for us in favor of this prick we don’t even know, but hate everything about.  And when they boast, it’s about ordinary things like a funny joke or a nice restaurant they’re going to for dinner.  Ordinary things men like me are more than capable of and succeed at doing while we’re seeing these girls.

“It bothers me that girls can openly tell their dates that they’re seeing other men to spark competition and can choose among who she finds more attractive,” he continued.  “It bothers me that if a guy dated two or three girls, he’d have to keep it secret from all of them because if he was honest, every girl would just lose interest.  Plus, he’d just be labeled a player.  He’s not keeping his options open like she is, he’s just an untrustworthy player.  I’ve been on both ends of this.  And it’s only one of the many double standards I’ve experienced.

“Then there are the guys that were too nice to their girlfriends so the girls leave them for ‘alpha males’ that know how to make her loins tingle with desire.  Guys that only care about tomorrow night’s lay.  I’ve been the asshole.  I’ve been the nice guy.  Neither one seems to win out.  And I can’t be myself because the real me is too sensitive, boring, insecure, and lacks conversational depth – every quality girls, and everyone else on the planet, gets grossed out by.  That’s why none of them maintain attraction.  So what the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“What can you do man?” Aaron asked coolly.  “Just keep your head up and keep fighting.”

“I’ve been trying.”

“You haven’t been the same since Sandy left you,” Aaron said.  “Don’t try to word your way around it, but that’s what this is about.  You feel like you got lucky because you met one girl that liked you.  She was your first major fuckup.”

“You imply that there’ll be more.”

“Likely, yes.”

“I can’t handle more fuckups.  I’m just giving up hope man,” Carl said.  “Sandy and I were great together and I made the foolish mistake of not opening up my feelings to her.  Sure, it’s a mistake I’ll never make again, but fucking a.  Why couldn’t anyone just teach me more about relationships instead of just the goddamn pickup, which covers the span of dates I can hold a girl?  Or how to handle things better?  I can’t keep learning how to do things the hard way.  It just hurts too much.  What really bothers me, though, is that these girls that boast about their men are really cute.  The girls that do treat me that way aren’t as physically attractive, so why should I feel like I have to settle for less?  Men instinctively want good looks and I’m not about to surrender my masculinity when these other guys aren’t.”

“There’s more to it,” Aaron said. “We’re alone in my car in a Montclair parking garage.  You’re too afraid to go outside because the world has hurt you so many times.  That’s why you never go out.  You’re missing out on a ton of opportunities to meet new people.  That and you never chase your hobbies.  There are girls in every profession except browsing the fuckin’ internet by yourself on the weekends.”

“We’re 27,” Carl said.  “All around me for the past few years girls and guys our age have been getting married left and right.  Most are totally happy.  Most know what they want out of life and already built the foundation for it.  I’ve had one girlfriend and it lasted a few weeks.”

Carl was an attractive guy too.  He was tall, with blue eyes and always walked confidently with his shoulders back and chest out.  He certainly felt like he deserved more with good looks, a stable job, and his own apartment, but things never found his favor.  He grew angry with his age.  Resentful.  Worse yet, he knew he had to hide those feelings from everyone because then he’d just be viewed as misogynist or sexist.  How was he supposed to get a girl to even like him, let alone be attracted to him, when he was in so much pain? It kills him that he wakes up alone every morning while every girl he ever wanted to sleep with is off in bed with other guys.

“Sandy’s downside was that she was slutty,” Aaron said.  “Sluts move on fast and they don’t care about the wreckage they leave behind them. Sandy’s been with over twenty guys and she’s in her early twenties.  That’s like five or six guys a year if you consider when she lost her virginity.  Eventually her fickle attitude would have ended your relationship anyway.”

Carl knew that wasn’t true.  In his time with Sandy, he found that she was very aware of her past behaviors and was actively working on ending them.  That’s why they were even in a relationship to begin with.  He saw the very self-improvement process he was going through in her.  That’s why he always had faith in her.  “Does that mean she’ll never get married or find someone to love her?” he asked.

“It doesn’t matter right now.  She disappeared.  You need to find someone who will love you.”

“Maybe I already did,” Carl suggested.  Sandy said he loved him before he found the chance.  And then she dumped him the very next week.  It couldn’t be more obvious to him that she just grew sick of the jokes.  He looked out into the looming storm.  “I’m sick of Hollywood lies.  Every movie has a happy ending.  Every guy gets his girl and vice versa.  Everyone achieves their goals and accomplishments.  But what about those of us with harder lives and worse luck?  I’m not gonna live under their conceited fantasy.  People fuck up.  Mistakes are made.  In today’s short attention spanned society, we throw away what’s broken instead of fixing it.  And so that agony endures until time claims either it or you.

“Like you said, I do feel like I got lucky,” Carl said, “Sandy slept with me on the first date, from the rebound she never told me about.  And she kept coming back for more until she realized I was a pretty likable guy.  But is it true?  Did I really get lucky because she used me in lieu of what she concealed?  Am I truly unattractive to girls?”

Outside the parking garage, the first sheets of intense rain began to fall and pummel the ground below.  Carl stared at it derisively through his eyebrows, then turned back to Aaron who continued his effort to soothe his friend’s struggles.

The Man at the Bar

Amanda sat alone in the middle of the bar wearing her brand new summer dress and black high heels.  She was waiting for her two closest friends to show up so they could all go dancing together.  She spent her time drinking little sips of her SoCo and Lime and distracting herself on her cell phone to avoid catching the intrigue of too many men.  Still, as pretty as she was, a few of the younger guys still found the courage to work some polished pickup line on her.  It was only 9:30 and she was already approached five times by guys who couldn’t hold their own, even in conversation with her.  She admired their courage, but that’s about it.

Amanda was in her early twenties, so most of the men in the bar noticed her when she came walking in by herself.  The few that actually did find something to say visibly drooled themselves over the blessing that they were actually given the opportunity to speak to such a beautiful girl.  But, having heard all of it before, she read through their rehearsed lines and chewed them up with some verbal sparring.  Who were these cocky milquetoasts?

When her friends arrived, they immediately grabbed a drink and all three of them jumped to the dance floor.  As the night aged, the music got louder and the bodies drew closer.  Many of those in the bar had already found their champion for trophy sex.  Some of the guys who didn’t have a partner just circled around recycling the same opener on every girl in the bar, including Amanda and her friends even though they were in a group.

As the girls danced and their bodies glistened with sweat, Amanda noticed a different kind of man at the bar.  He was just a young as her, maybe a year or two older, but something about his countenance was different than the other boys.  He sat alone in front of the bar, a white woven shirt unbuttoned at the top two buttons and the sleeves were rolled up to his forearms.  He sat back patiently in his chair, looking around coolly and calmly with controlled movements.  He was slow and nonthreatening.  And definitely more confident than the others.  He caught a glimpse of Amanda and her friends, but she immediately turned away to avoid the fact she was staring at the stranger.

When the girls’ drinks ran low, Amanda offered to head to the bar for refiills.  When she squeezed through the inconsiderate, twisting bodies, she leaned her elbows on the bar and stood expectant.  She looked to her left and saw the man in the white shirt.  He smiled at her when she noticed him, but she immediately turned away again in nervousness.

He stood up and slowly approached her.  He took the empty seat right next to her and when she saw him – only out of the corner of her eye for fear of being too direct – he greeted her with a casual, “Whaddup?”  Amanda cracked a smile at his charm.  She turned toward him.  Even though he was right next to her, he still just leaned back coolly in his chair and gave her a friendly smile.  There was something different about him.  He hadn’t offered her a drink like all the other men that approached her that night, expecting to impress her with a monetary investment.  He wasn’t hanging over her, acting loud and obnoxious, or doing anything that came across as unnatural or uncomfortable for either of them.

Before Amanda could say a word, he inspected her thoroughly from head to toe and said, “I haven’t been here long, but I can already tell a few guys have already spilled some beer all over you given the stains on your dress, but I just wanted to see what you were like.”  Amanda looked at him for a moment, his sly smile left her guessing what he was really trying to say to her.  Then, unlike the boys who were too smitten to look at her face, she noticed that he locked eyes with her.

The Girl in the Park

I was sitting alone on a park bench when she sauntered by, the spring sun singeing the air with an intense warmth.  She was wearing a summertime dress, taking in the beauty of the cloudless sky overhead.  She walked gracefully, timed with the beat of the song playing on her iPod.  Her brown eyes spoke volumes about her self-confidence – they were not afraid to scour the surroundings, studying the blue jays chase each other from oak tree to maple or smiling at the elderly couple that was holding hands across the lake in their leisure time – so her eyes gleamed with steadfast praise for the stability in her life.

As her flip flops clicked down the path, I looked up at the raucous distracting me from my Saturday morning reading.  When my eyes rose up, she was already catching a glimpse of me.  My gray eyes met the path of hers and there remained locked.  I dared not look away – I couldn’t let her see the sudden, raging nervousness undulating through my nerves.  Her dress, a black silhouette laced with large, navy blue flower petals, added to the beauty that captivated my then tunnel vision.  The sun, the fire heating the crock pot, shined off of her fair complexion and her shoulder length, straight brown hair.

The more each of our eyes refused to budge, the greater the intensity consumed us.  She was coming closer.  Was she going to say something to say something to me?  Was she planning a funny comment?  Was she the shy type?  She smirked as her steps brought her much closer.  My thoughts broke into a cold sweat, but my countenance was an immovable mountain. 

She was in front of me now and her lips cracked an, “I know something you don’t know” smirk.  I flipped my bookmark into my book and jumped before the timing of her steps forced her to cast her gaze elsewhere.  “How tough are the cops in this city on jaywalkers?”  I asked.  “I’ve got a long jaywalking rap sheet and I can’t afford another bust.”  She stopped in her place, overcome by a friendly burst of laughter.