--"Blame It on the Rain", He Is We
It was still raining by the time we got to the movie theater. It was the slight, silent rain of a storm on its way out, but the telltale signs of its impact were everywhere. From the pitter-patter of the raindrops hitting the sidewalk below to the bleariness the air took on just then, it was obvious that this was to be a day of varying shades of gray. I didn't mind, though. I never minded. I was never one to let a silly thing like the weather affect my mood.
In fact, I had went into that day determined not to be distracted by anything but the company I was keeping. It's not often that one gets to go on an outing with one's girlhood crush and I was going to make the most of it. Like my daddy always says, "you can only go looking at the bluest skies for so long." Eventually, you've got to learn to lean on yourself for your happiness. And this was a happy occasion. It was my first week back after my first year at Georgia. It had been a whirlwind of catching up with old high school and church friends, as well as re-familiarizing myself with my old haunts. It was walking out of one of these haunts, my favorite bakery in all the world, that I had bumped into him, the Unnamed Boy from my youth.
We got to talking--yammering about how I was doing now that I was a big 'ole college gal, how he was doing now that he was out in the real world. For a minute there, it was like I was back to being that infatuated wisp who had spent so many of her hours pining for a boy who would ultimately never be hers. He looked the same--older, but the same. He still had the same easygoing demeanor that had made it easy to be friends with him growing up. And he still had that way about him that had made it so simple to fall head over heels for him in the first place. While it was true that eventually I outgrew the phase where I basically stalked his every movement and came to know him somewhat, my gut reaction to the Unnamed Boy will always be that of that little 'ole Breanne, who at nine absolutely fell in love with the neighborhood boy. As much as the twenty-year-old version of me understood our friendship to be more casual at that point, I can't say it was easy keeping the girl inside at bay with arguments of logic or, you know, reality.
At some point in the conversation it was mentioned that he was headed to a nearby movie theater to catch The Mummy
, which had just opened that week, with some friends. He invited me to join him as I would already know most of the folks going. Apparently, everybody and their cousin were getting back into town that very week. I didn't know what to say. What could I say? I wasn't really all that impressed with the previews for the movie, but I felt I owed it to my inner child to say yes. Yes, I had had other plans, I told him, but what could be more important than catching up with old friends?
We walked the few blocks together in the dying rain, remembering how we used to be. We talked about how the old neighborhood had changed (when it really hadn't) and what it was like living outside of that comfortable bubble. I couldn't contribute much since I had only gone from being ensconced at home with my parents to being ensconced at school with my dorm mates. I empathized with him as best as I could, though. I told him it can't be easy letting go of your past when it only recently made up so much of your life.
"I know, right?" is all he could reply.
I mentioned how I would be getting my own place off-campus the upcoming school year. Then I would be in a better position to know what it's like to be on my own, alone. He patted me on the shoulder just as we were getting to the theater, telling me that I shouldn't be in that much of a hurry to prove I could tough it out by myself, that there's something to be said about having that feeling of safety and support when you come back home. It's rough being by yourself, he said. It's rough having only you to count on.
It occurred to me that I didn't know what he was going through at the time, but as I watched him buy the tickets for both of us I understood that seeing me wasn't just about seeing someone he grew up with. It was about seeing a familiar face, any familiar face for him. As we waited for the rest of his friends to show up I grew ever more concerned that there was more to his funk than the mere pains of growing up. I'd like to think I knew him well enough to know when something was bothering him. We weren't longtime friends, but after that initial stage of shyness which lasted for six years, it wasn't such an uncommon sight to see the two of us talking in the street outside of his parents' house on some nights. During that time I'd like to believe that I picked up more than an inkling of what made him tick and what his moods ran to. I'd like to think that we grew close enough for him to trust me with a problem as obvious as he was going through. Hell's bells, I passed out on his front lawn once (or twice). If that doesn't bond in some small way then I don't know what does, you know?
Eventually his friends made it to the theater within a few minutes of each other. There were seven of us total. He wasn't totally wrong. I did know most of his friends by sight or by name. Yet to classify the rest of our party as being close acquaintances of mine would be a misnomer. As my daddy says, "Just because you swim in the same pond don't make you fishes of the same color." While I found his friends interesting and did my best to endear myself to them, I was more interested in continuing the discussion with him. I knew it wouldn't be easy, though. With five other individuals competing for his and my attention it was all I could do to keep abreast of his whereabouts, let alone monopolize his time.
I got the same 'ole feeling I used to get when I was eleven or twelve. I would see him with his friends, all of them four or five years older than me at the time. I'd be so intimidated by their stature, how they would tower over me, that it was unconceivable of me to ever approach him while he was flanked by them. And even when I would walk by I would eavesdrop on their conversation and I'd hear them discussing all manner of subjects I just didn't understand. Cars, sports, girls, colleges--whatever they were fussing over at that particular moment was something I was ill prepared to chime in on. That's what it was like watching him conversing with his friends in front of the movie theater. It was all I could do to maintain some semblance of passionate interest in the conversation I was carrying on with one of them myself. I just didn't know how I was ever going to get back to him later that night, especially during the movie.
Sometimes Gracious Providence has a way of working itself out, though.
I found myself sitting next to him in the actual movie theater with no one on the other side of him. I do not recall if this was by his design or some accident of fate. Whatever it was, I took control of the situation almost immediately. I started him talking about how I used to have the biggest of crushes on him (which he already knew) and how he was the best part of our neighborhood. He laughed at that, He said that having me in the neighborhood had been a good thing too. I moved onto how sometimes life is like that. Growing up, folks think it's going to be all the big stuff in their life that they're going to miss--the houses, the schools, the grand gestures. But I had a theory that what we really miss the most is the small moments, the people that we see everyday, the smells we grow accustomed to, the familiarity of it all. I told him that sometimes losing those small touches pains us just as much as the huge losses in our lives. The only difference is with the huge losses there's a precedent for people wanting to console us. We're always comforted in the bosom of those who love and guide us. But with the small pains of being forced to move on we usually don't have anyone willing to listen to us. We're usually on our own to cheer ourselves up because most of the world can't see what's wrong, most of the world can't see the dull ache that consistently drives us into despondency.
"But I'm different," I told him flat out.
"And why are you different, Breasy? What makes you so special?" he asked me.
I told him I was different because I was Little Miss Chipper, didn't he know. I had had a lifetime of being the go-to gal when it comes to cheering people up, stroking their egos, and plain just being the crutch when people needed help on taking that next step. I was born to the role, I said.
He laughed again. He then asked me if I was so knowledgeable about these things, what my prescription was to cure his doldrums.
I told him that there used to be a gal, beautiful as all hell, graceful and charming too, who used to pine for a boy much like himself. This gal used to dream up elaborate scenarios where she and this boy would someday be together. Then she would write these scenarios down on paper in poems and stories. Yet everyday she would see this boy she couldn't manage to say a single peep to him. It wasn't because she was shy. It wasn't because she was intimidated by him. It was because the more she learned about the boy, the more she realized that all the elaborate scenarios and all the perfections that she thought could be attributed to him were too farfetched. She began to realize that she was pining for something she could never have. She began to realize that she was wishing for something that just couldn't ever be true.
However, one day when she had all but given up on the fantasy of ever introducing herself to this boy, she took the plunge. She walked right up to him and said hello. That's when she found out that, while her preconceptions of him were rendered moot, who he actually was was a much better prospect. She realized that changing her perspective of him was a huge change and that letting go of her idealized romance was difficult. Yet she also realized that getting to know him was far better than any experience she had ever had imagining who he was.
Eventually, she came to learn that she would never have the boy of her dreams. Instead she got something far sweeter, a friend that she actually had taken the time to learn all about.
"What does this have to do with me?" he asked me.
I told him that I felt that getting the neighborhood was sort of the girl of his dreams, something that he had his heart set on that was impossible to get (or get back). However, I let him on a little secret. I said that there was whole wide world that could be his neighborhood and that if he took the time to know its ins and outs as much as he had with the neighborhood back home that he might discover he liked the memory just as much, if not more, as the memory of his youth. There's something to be said about holding onto dreams or memories, but there's also approaching the world as the dream each one of us is fortunate to live in.
Instead of replying, he merely settled his head on my shoulder as the movie started--little 'ole Breanne with The Unnamed Boy. If somebody had told nine-year-old me that I would have him with his head on my shoulder she might have died from disbelief. What's more if you told her that all she would be feeling at that moment was compassion, and not love, she might have even died again. He could have told me it was all bull crap or that my theory was nice, but given our history together he knew I was speaking from the heart about understanding what it's like to lose some sense of perfection that only existed in your mind. The fact he didn't refute my arguments was how I knew that I might not have cheered him up completely, but I had gotten through to him.
He knew that I knew that losing a childhood dream is hard, but finding hope for something better because of that loss might just make it worth it. After all, as my daddy says, "you can only go looking at blue skies for so long." Sometimes you have to learn to love the rain as much as you love the sunshine.
Labels: He is We, movies, moving on, relationships, support, Unnamed Boy