--"Just The Way You Are" (cover) - Maggie Gyllenhaal
People make mistakes. That's just the nature of the lives we lead. We make our choices with the information we have at hand and we deal with the consequences. Very rarely do we have the complete picture of how events will unfold or how other individuals will impact or respond to our choices. We gamble our future happiness with every step we take and place ourselves in jeapordy with every word we say.
Under such pressure, how is an individual supposed to make up his mind without succumbing to overwhelming regret?
Trust in the Goonies, I say.
It's OK, you're a Goonie and Goonies always mess up... just... don't mess up any more.
That's the best any of us can do. Try our hardest to get every choice right, with the full knowledge that there will be times when we get it all horribly wrong.
I sometimes think that we didn't pick the bowling alley to have that discussion, I sometimes think the bowling alley picked us. I mean--I've had discussions of importance in cars, in restaurants, in bedrooms, on balconies, and even in churches. Yet I have only ever had one talk in a bowling alley that stuck with me for years and years. I could say that it was just the environment--the crashing of pins, the loud and boisterous voices yelling over each other, the bright lights and even brighter balls and shoes. All that could have made this lasting impression. Yet that doesn't explain it all away. Not by half. I think we could have that conversation in the dead of night in a sealed room with no furniture and I still would have remembered every detail, every syllable, as if it were yesterday. You know me, I have the shortest-term memory ever. I would forget my car keys everyday if I didn't need to get to work. But certain things I hold onto like a pit bull and conversations, meaningful conversations, seem to be one of those few examples where my mind cannot seem to let go. Even when I would much rather forget painful words or sad words or even hurtful words, sometimes they linger on like the ghost in the machinery of my brain. I remember how strange it seemed that we were saying what we were saying there, like a bowling alley was too irresponsible of a place to allow what needed to come out to, well, come out. Yet even with all the nervous sensations, somehow it was important that we have it there, out in public, with curious onlookers and eavesdroppers. Somehow it needed to be in that bowling alley.
"Patrick, you're up," your friend Jake told me as I looked in your direction. I didn't see your oceanic blue-green eyes just then, hidden as they were by the chestnut brown bangs above your face. You refused to look in my direction and I couldn't blame you. I had let you down again.
"Give me a minute." I tried harder to gain eye contact with you. "Are you alright? Did you want to go outside for a minute and talk?"
"Just bowl," is the only answer I received back.
I watched as your other friend Renee stood up from where she was sitting beside you. She walked over to me and gave me some simple instructions.
"I think it'd be better if you just move on. She's upset. She won't be in any mood to talk calmly for awhile yet."
"Maybe you should just bowl," Jake said.
I stood up, grabbed my ball, and strode towards the line as if what was happening to you wasn't affecting me. I did my best to not let you see how perplexed I was. I thought I was being the bigger person. I thought I was looking ahead for the both of us. I couldn't see the logic behind your disappointment or your bitterness. It was like I had told you that in ten years I'd build you your dream house and you were mad at me for not building it for you now. In truth, I thought you were being self-absorbed and impatient. However, I couldn't say it didn't hurt to see you hurt. You were and still are the most important person in the world to me. Witnessing you in such a state never puts me in a good mood.
I didn't even see how many pins I knocked over. It didn't matter to me what the score was. Whatever it was, I was losing. I was losing my confidence. I was losing my equilibrium.
I was losing you.
When Renee got up to take her turn, I took her seat next to you. You made sure to turn your head away from me. There are times when I find your stubborness sexy, an appealing display of your gumption. I hear you tell me stories about how you stood your ground against somebody, didn't take any guff, and I swell with pride that I know somebody who's that unafraid. You create this aura about you that, once you've made up your mind to do something or be some way, you would rather die than have your mind changed. I've always respected that about you. I've always respected that, while others might falter under the pressures of making things cordial or uncomplicated, you were always right there to make things interesting and complex. You have a boldness rarely seen in others. There are times when I find your stubborness very sexy, indeed.
That wasn't one of them.
I put my hand on your back and start motioning in tiny circles. At first, you resisted by shrugging and shaking, but eventually you allowed me my small offering of peace. It wasn't much, but it was a start.
"If I keep bowling this bad, Breanne, they might ask me to leave, huh?" I asked you, trying to elicit a smile. "'Son, enough is enough. We've seen your scores and I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to step out back with us so we can put you out of your misery.'"
I thought a heard the beginnings of a laugh, but it may have been the couple in the lane next to us.
"At least you're on pace to break a fifty. I'll be lucky to break a quarter," Renee chimed in. I heard both Jake and Renee laugh. We were all nervous for you. We all knew that tonight had been a trying day for you and I was the cause of that. We all had high hopes that something of the night could be salvaged, though. Giving up on you was the last thought on our minds.
"Not one laugh, Breanne? Not even one titter?" Jake asked.
That's when you turned around, smile fading from your face.
"You can't make me laugh if I don't want to." Then you fixed your gaze on me. "Apparently, you can't make somebody feel something if they don't, right, Patrick?"
"So, guys, I appreciate the effort. Really, please, thank you. But let me be."
I should have let it go. I shouldn't have pushed. But I could no more let you be as leave you for good. It would be one and the same for me. I never want to be the guy who regrets something they didn't do as opposed to the guy who regrets something they did. It doesn't always work out that way, but I try to keep it as a guiding principle in my actions. The choice to wheedle someone into talking to me has always been an easy choice for me to make. Silence kills trust in my book because you never know how long the silence will go on. All that interminable waiting, wondering if the last words you said to a person will actually be the last words you say to a person, bothers me. It fills me with a sense that I'm being too passive. That's why I push, push, push, always. I never want it said that I just let something happen to me, that I never fought back. I've been accused too often that in my history and it's always been an area of weakness that I've tried correcting. In a sense, the idea of your getting through the evening without incident never stood a chance. You were going to talk to me, one way or the other. Inevitability, remember?
"I can't. I can't just let you be. I need to help. I want to help. It's all my fault, remember?"
"Well, you can't. You can't help."
"I can try."
"No, you can't try. I won't let you. You lost that right when you twisted everything into knots, Patrick."
"Everything wasn't that simple to begin with."
"It was simple. It was you who made everything complicated."
"I think Renee and I should let you guys work this all out, Breanne," Jake said.
"No, stay. Stay," you told him. "Hell's bells, both of you are part of the reason why I'm in such a funk."
"I really think we should leave," Renee pleaded with you.
"You'll stay, Renee. You want to help me, you be on my side and stay." You stood up and walked in front of me with your friends sitting, slightly embarrassed, behind you on the other side of the console. "Tell them what you said. Allow them to know how you're going to blame them for your cowardice."
"I didn't say it was their fault. You're putting words into my mouth."
"Am I? Excuse me. He didn't say it was your fault. You two just gave him the idea."
It was true. When I woke up that morning
, all my thoughts were focused on how we as a couple were going to work. We had a future ahead of us. When I woke up that morning, I had little idea that the night would end up like this.
It wasn't until lunch that the first signs of trouble started to appear. It had been the four of us--you, me, Renee, and Jake. You had wanted to introduce me to your friends and your friends to me. I went along with it because it seemed important to you, though, if I had my way, I wouldn't have taken any of our alone time away. I was glad I went, however. If I hadn't, I might have never started to seriously mull over who you were (and maybe still are) as a person. To put it simply, you acted differently in front of them. You spoke differently. You talked about different topics than you did with me. You even moved differently. It was like watching a whole other version of you, a more immature and silly version of you. It was a version I wasn't quite sure I liked. Sure, you acted occasionally childish when we were talking, but you always tempered it with a maturity beyond years. With me you had always been a ball on the precipice between youth and experience; you were right where I wanted you. With them all I saw and all I heard was someone who was miles away from me in what I thought was important. You were still exuberant and still spirited, but you ceased to maintain that precious balance that I admired in you.
That, coupled with the comments your cousin Shelly had given me in passing--speaking on how she was much closer to me in age, how she was in college and you weren't, and how you could never possibly understand everything I was going through at the time--gave me reason to pause. Possibly, I had taken a page from your playbook. I might have jumped into being in love with you before I really found out who you completely were.
I knew the you that you were when it was us alone. I liked the alone you. It was the you with your friends that I wasn't sure of. I started to think of all the different scenarios. I could never go to one of your high school parties. I could never attend one of your dances. I would never be somebody who would feel completely comfortable hanging out with the high school crowd. My tolerance for making allowances for adolescent tendencies began and ended with you. I could appreciate only that in you because you were different, because you were special. I don't know what I would have done if I'd been surrounded by more than a handful of them. Jake and Renee, even though there was nothing specifically unpleasant or annoying about them, were enough to get my hairs up every time they enticed you to say or do something silly. You were only allowed to be silly with me. It was fun when we were silly together. With everyone else it just seemed, well, silly.
I think that was the easiest way to say it. When I had you all to myself you appeared every bit my equal, but when you were placed against your peers I had no choice but to look down upon you.
"All I said, guys, was that she acted differently when she was around you two. I told her that I wasn't sure which was closer to the real her. And I told her that a part of me thought she'd be happier with someone closer to her age, who could talk about the things, all of the things, she wanted to talk about."
"Did you ever consider, sugar," you said sarcastically, "that I'm capable of having more than one type of friend? As my daddy says, 'a man who only wears one shirt every day never leaves his house.' I can't be everything to everyone so I don't even try. I thought you understood that about me, you of all people."
"That I can only be little 'ole Breanne, no more, no less. I stopped trying to be a different person with everybody. Instead, I just try to go with the flow. I try to show the part of me that makes each person I know the happiest. It's not me trying to be a different person. It's just me being me. For instance, with my friends I'm goofier and a hoot-and-a-half 24/7. Sometimes we'll just go and moon people because we think it's funny. And that's alright because it makes me happy. With my family I'm more reserved, more cultured, and more well-mannered because that's the way I raised."
"And with me?"
"I've always tried to split the difference with you because you're like that. And that's what I always liked about how we worked together, that we had it all. We had the thunder and the little fall of rain."
"I'm not asking you to change that."
"But you are accusing me of pretending with you. You're saying the person who's been on the phone with you practically every night was a lie. You're saying that I've been fooling with you this whole time. Well, I have news for you, Mr. Patrick, you're not worth that much effort. Certainly not from me."
"You're telling me you can't see how you're different?"
"No different than you are. You act differently around my parents. You act differently around my friends. You act way differently around my cousins."
"Then why does it bother me so much?"
"Because with you if it's not perfect, it's shit, excuse my language."
I saw your point because I think all of us act in this manner to a certain degree. It's not that we're completely different personalities, but we all have facets to our character that come to the forefront when we're in different company. I saw you point, but I didn't know yet how to give into it.
"I have no response to that," I told you after I sat underneath your scrutiny for a few minutes.
"That's just great. Then can I bowl?"
The three of us watched you gather up your ball. Your cheeks were flush and there was a definite defiance still in your eyes, but, for the most part, you had said what you had to say.
Your first ball landed in the gutter. You could have cared less.
I was trying to formulate a response to what you had just said. A little late, to be sure, but, you know me. There's something about having the last word or maybe having fights reach a point of closure to my liking that I cannot quite grasp. I don't know why I can't ever let people off easily. I could have very well allowed you to gripe and we all could have moved past all of that. Who knows? We may have managed to salvage the night yet.
I'm a hopeless fretter. I worry about issues that most people cannot even contemplate. And at that moment I was worried about you. No, I wasn't worried about upsetting you even more. I had moved beyond that. What I was worried about was that you were going to convince me to change my mind. And I couldn't have that. I couldn't appear weak in front of you and your friends. I didn't want you to lose respect for me. In my weak logic, to keep you I had to appear strong, which meant I had to convince you to let me go. It wasn't even about whether or not staying with you was the right choice. It was merely about the apperance of sticking to my guns.
I didn't want you to win because if you won that fight I knew there would be nothing you couldn't talk me out of. I had went into that bowling 100% sure that I was doing everything for the best and at that point my conviction was faltering by the second. I've never been able to debate you effectively, Miss Breanne. The only way I win half of arguments is through sheer pigheadedness and irrationality. I can feel I'm winning an argument and then you have to cheat and start using logic. That's when I feel like saying, "well, if you're going to cloud the issue with the fact then there's no point in debating this with you any more."
I walked up behind you as you retrieved your ball.
"I know it hurts you to hear this. It hurts me to say this. We're never going to work, Breannie. Not because I don't care about you or because I think you don't care about me, but because we're not there yet. Neither of us is old enough to be what the other needs."
You turned to face me.
"What you're really saying is that I'm not there yet. I'm not old enough."
"I'm not saying that at all."
"Yes, you are, Patrick. You just don't know it yet."
That's when I took your hands and placed them around me. Then I did the same with mine. I embraced you in the middle of the lane probably with dozens of people who had heard us arguing. I embraced you tightly to let you know that I loved you. You have to know it was hell mouthing the words that we needed to wait when what I really wanted to say to you was yes, yes, and yes. It hurt to have you dislike me and turn away from me when all I wanted to do was take you back to your room and take all of you. Everything had fallen apart, but, instead of being the one trying to convince you to put it back together, I had to be the one who had to tell you to let it be.
"What I know is we have a long time to get where you want us to be. I'm willing to wait if you are," I whispered in your ear after you let me go. When you didn't say anything, I took it as a sign that you were too overcome to respond. I thought you had given your silent acknowledgment.
However, your answer turned out to be very different from the one I expected. I watched as you threw your ball once more down the lane. When you came back, you didn't sit down next to me. In fact, you didn't sit next to me at all. You continued to walk past me, up the steps, and turned towards the front counter.
Then you walked out the bowling alley, bowling shoes still on.
You ran away for the last time in your life.
I made a mistake and the mistake was this. I should have told you I loved you and made you believe that, instead of trying so hard to make you believe that I cared less for you than you did for me. I should have told you that it didn't matter to me how you acted around your friends and that I was just being a jerk about feeling insecure fitting into your world. I felt like the outsider looking into a world where you could be happy without me and that didn't sit right with me. The whole silly part was that you never asked me to change, you never tried to force me to squeeze into that world. Your plan had always been to slowly integrate me into your world, allowing me to find a comfortable place to nestle. You never tried to push me. You never wanted it to feel awkward. You were always understanding about everything.
You couldn't have cared about me any better or any more than you did. But I couldn't see it for what it was. I was uncomfortable with your life. I was insecure that I would never fit into it to any comfortable degree. I thought I could never care about you enough to make the leap and just move out there with you. I could have transferred. I could have sacrificed more than I did. I could have made you happy the way you know you could be and, in the process, make myself happy as well. I could have done a thousand things differently.
I did none of that, though. It all went horribly wrong.
I made a mistake and the mistake was this. I thought at the time we were a mistake and that everything would be better in a couple of years. But the real mistake was ever letting you go.
Oh well, maybe next time.