Problematic Dreams – Part IV

Car Kiss

Cory couldn’t dance because of the fresh tattoo on his foot, and Noelle wasn’t dancing much either, probably due to a combination of not knowing any of the other dancers and because she would rather stay at the table and socialize with Cory anyway.

So I went out on the dance floor alone, dancing a few songs in a row with various partners before making my way back to our table to ask Cory and Noelle if they’d like to go do something else. Both of them suggested going for drinks somewhere, so we looked up wine bars nearby. The most promising one, a quaint wine dive with mid-range pricing, was about three-quarters of a block away.

I started to ask if we wanted to walk or drive, but then I looked down at Cory’s foot where his Sperrys were already starting to chafe the tender skin around his new tattoo. “Do you guys want to walk or — oh, I forgot, we have a gimp with us,” I said in a teasing voice, nudging Cory with my shoulder playfully.

“Hey, now!” he exclaimed in an equally playful voice. “Just because you said that, we’re walking,” he stated emphatically with a nod and a mock serious face. We all laughed, and I – looking out for him – said, “No, really. We can drive. I was just giving you a hard time.”

Cory raised his eyebrows at me. “I know a challenge when I hear one. We are walking!” I hadn’t realized how stubborn this man was but, given all I’d already discovered about his passion, intensity, pride and drive to become a surgeon, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

It actually was a nice night out – a bit humid, but not too hot and not too cold. Since we’re all music lovers, we started talking about our favorite composers. Cory definitely favors German composers, and I listed a few French composers I love (e.g. Debussy), but Chopin was the unanimous favorite for piano compositions.

Cory was a Music major in college before going to do his prereqs for med school, so his knowledge of music history vastly outweighed that of Noelle and me. When Cory mentioned a composer we didn’t know, he would inevitably start belting out some of their music, showing off both his knowledge and his phenomenal voice.

As we neared the wine dive, we all started singing Broadway numbers, harmonizing as we went, walking in a single line when the sidewalk narrowed and fanning out as it widened. Once inside, we settled at a tiny round table near a window, lit by a single candle and surrounded by beautifully carved wooden paneling. The place was beautiful – cozy and romantic but also earthy and rustic, with an air of class and elegance.

Cory asked me what I like to drink, and I told him that my favorite is Riesling. I hadn’t realized he was going to go order for me until he nodded, stood, and looked to Noelle, who shrugged and admitted, “I’m not a wine connoisseur; I’ll have whatever she’s having.”

A few moments later, Cory returned from the beautifully polished mahogany bar with two glasses of Riesling and one Malbec. I typically don’t like reds, but Cory let me try a sip of his, and it was surprisingly good. But that may have just been the influence of his company.

All throughout conversation, although the three of us were talking, Cory continued to look deeply into my eyes as though he was trying to read my unspoken – and often, unbidden – thoughts. I suspect he saw more than I meant for him to, especially as I drained my wine glass. He’s a handsome, intelligent, talented, passionate and thoughtful doctor-to-be who spent hours opening up, being emotionally vulnerable and connecting with me. With us, I reminded myself.

At one point during the evening, Noelle got up to go to the bathroom. The moment she left the table, Cory turned the full force of his gaze on me, seeming to drink in the sight of me, unhindered in his admiration now that we were without an audience. I hadn’t realized he had been dampening his intensity until Noelle was gone and I felt the shift in him.

We sat in silence just looking into each other’s eyes for a few moments. It was a comfortable silence, sitting there by candlelight, just enjoying the presence of one another.

“I could get lost in your eyes,” Cory murmured quietly to me, still studying my face.

I felt my face get hot, and I smiled shyly.

“I could just sit here, looking into your eyes for hours,” he went on. “You have the most beautiful eyes. Actually,” he smiled, “They were the first thing I noticed about you when you walked up at the talent show. They’re stunning – and so expressive. You gave me a look that night that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. I even went on and on about it to my friend Alexa after the show, trying to decipher what it meant and talking about your eyes and how beautiful they are until she got jealous, and I had to stop. I kept telling her, ‘There was something about her eyes…'”

Just then, Noelle came back from the bathroom, and Cory trailed off mid-sentence. We hadn’t noticed her approach, and I suspect she felt the shift in the mood and intensity. I started trying to encourage flirtation between the two of them again. Help, help, help.

As the evening wore on and Cory finished his third glass of wine, he started to really open up – even more than before. He shared with Noelle some of the things he had already told me, like the meaningful significance of each of his tattoos, but he went into more detail this time, telling stories about his parents’ divorce when he was a young child. And how they’re both on their fourth marriages. And how his mom is an alcoholic with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who was abusive when he was a boy.

He shared some other stories from his childhood too painful, graphic and personal for me to rename here, but suffice it to say that Cory has walked through some of the darkest experiences possible this side of death, but rather than feeling sorry for him, I admired him even as my heart went out to him. He has done so well for himself, considering all he has been through.

Eventually midnight rolled around, and we agreed to call it a night. We walked the mile back toward where our cars were parked, and we dropped Noelle off at her car first, hugging her goodnight before Cory and I made our way back to my BMW.

As before, Cory came over to the driver side of my car to open the driver door for me, but as I started to pull out my keys to unlock it, Cory turned toward me from where he stood between me and the driver door. “Can I do something impulsive?” he asked.

I dropped my keys back into my purse, startled, and the world started going in slow motion. Cory’s stance was both confident and timid. He didn’t know what I would say. I knew what he was asking, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was a terrible idea, but he was a hurting, attractive man who had just spent the past few hours pouring his heart out to me about very emotional, intimate things, and besides, another voice rationalized, it’s just a kiss, and I felt my head nod.

Without further encouragement, Cory slipped one hand behind my head and another around my waist, pulling me to him, where he leaned resting against my BMW.

His lips met mine, gently at first, and then more demanding. We both started smiling as we pulled away, and I heard the surprise in Cory’s voice when he whispered, “You’re a good kisser!”

I laughed, and he picked me up effortlessly, turned us around, and set me up on top of the trunk of my car before burying his hands in my hair again…

I’m currently working on a mashup for our a cappella group, and I suspect it doesn’t take much imagination to determine my inspiration.

Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser and realize that I’ve got
One less problem without you
I got one less, one less problem

He’s so tall and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins
My one condition is:

Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
Say you’ll see me again… even if it’s just pretend.

Authentically Aurora

Advertisements

Problematic Dreams – Part III

Swing dancing

On my way to pick Cory up from med school, I got updates from a few others that they weren’t going to make it out to dancing. It was just going to be Cory, Noelle and me (the makings of a love triangle if I ever saw one).

I pulled my BMW up to the fountain Cory had indicated in the center of campus and waited for him to emerge from the lecture hall. As his tall silhouette strode toward me, a book tucked under one arm, I was struck by the oddity of the situation. As much as Cory and I had messaged back and forth over the prior week, I felt like I knew him well, but in truth, I’d only ever spent five minutes physically in his presence.

“Sweet ride,” he commented as he approached before giving me a quick hug. “Thanks for picking me up.” I studied him as he slid onto my passenger seat. What an unusual life I lead.

I felt like a mom (or a wife?) asking Cory about his day as I drove him home. He told me briefly about that evening’s lecture, pausing temporarily to exclaim, “God, I love your car!” as I zipped onto the freeway.

Once at his complex – an older set of buildings probably built in the ’60s – Cory ushered me into the second floor apartment he shares with (surprise!) the guy who played bagpipes at the talent show. “I helped him tune them last night,” Cory mentioned as an aside just before I was pummeled by a blur of black fur.

“Stout! Stout, calm down,” Cory laughed as I was greeted by lots of wiggles and slobbery kisses from his two year old puppy.

I let Stout sniff my legs and lick my hands before I started to scratch him behind his ears. He laid down and rolled over for a belly rub. “Oooh, he loves you. He doesn’t normally trust people that fast,” Cory mused aloud before disappearing into what I assumed was his bedroom to change clothes while I tended to Stout.

Once Cory reappeared, we took Stout for a quick walk around the block, ensured he had food in his bowl; then returned to my car to go meet Noelle at the sweet shop that hosts swing dancing every Thursday night.

When Cory and I reached my BMW in the parking lot of his apartment complex, Cory walked past the passenger side of my car and started to accompany me toward the driver side. Confused, I subconsciously tilted my head to the side as I gestured, “This one is my car, right here.”

“Oh, I know,” he explained. “Don’t worry, I’m not driving. I’m just going to open your door for you.”

Shocked, I clicked my fob to unlock the door, and good as his word, Cory opened my driver door for me with a confident “M’lady” before escorting himself over to the passenger seat.

On the drive over to the sweet shop, Cory mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to dance because he’d just finished up his most recent tattoo the day before, and the skin was still healing was on his right foot. “I suppose I could be talked into sitting out a few dances to keep you company,” I teased him.

“How kind of you,” he drawled with a wink across to me. Man, but he could be charming.

I asked about the stories behind each of his tattoos and – after warning me that such a topic could get pretty serious and deep – Cory enthusiastically plunged into a twenty-minute exposition of his astrological sign intermingled with his dad’s, a couple logos from his favorite bands, the cross on his back to which he hoped to incorporate a few Buddhist symbols (this drew a raised eyebrow from me) and the most recent one, representing those who have struggled with mental illness. Only later would I discover the true depth and intimacy of each of these sentimental markings with which he had chosen to cover his body.

Cory finished up his explanation as we pulled up to the venue, and the two of us were just getting settled at a table beside the dance floor when Noelle skipped up to us. “Hey, guys!”

She looked adorable, as always, and I was just about to tell her so when I got pulled onto the dance floor. Cory had never seen me dance before, and I glanced over my partner’s shoulder a few times to catch him watching me from afar. I smiled to myself. I was in a swing dancing society in college and was glad to be able to showcase one of my strengths that night.

Stop it, I silently reprimanded myself. He’s just got the allure of the bad boy persona, but you heard him in the car! He says he’s a Christian, but he’s also adopting Buddhist principles into his beliefs. He clearly stated that he doesn’t believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. He’s a universalist and therefore not God’s best for you. You don’t need another “project.” Snap out of it!

By the time I’d finished my set, Noelle and Cory had just returned to our table with cups of ice cream. Cory wordlessly scooped a spoonful of his into my mouth as my eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Mmm,” I approved his choice as I tasted chocolate ice cream accented by earthy almonds and tart cranberry pieces. Over the next several minutes of conversation, Cory occasionally scooted his cup of ice cream toward me, encouraging me to share with him. A few times, I thought I saw veiled hurt in Noelle’s eyes, and I felt badly. Cory was not overly subtle about his preference, and I knew it couldn’t sit well with her. After a time, I actually tried to deftly encourage some flirtation between the two of them, partially to keep Noelle from feeling left out and partially – selfishly – because I desperately needed those perceptive eyes of his to stop peering deep into me from across the table.

When Cory looked at me, I knew he didn’t just see my dark, expressive eyebrows and the freckle in the golden-brown iris of my left eye. His expressions told me he saw all the things I didn’t want him to. He has walked through enough darkness to be able to see into the hearts of people and, throughout the surface-level conversation casually going on over ice cream, I felt like Cory and I were engaged in another realm, having a nonverbal conversation all our own.

An hour or so into the evening, Cory mentioned one time he went dancing with an ex. I’d seen several photos of him on Facebook looking cozy with a blonde girl, so I asked if she was the dancer. Cory had been looking at Noelle in that moment, but at my question, his head snapped around to me, and his face registered both shock and pain before he shuttered his expression. “No…” was all he said.

“She’s another ex, isn’t she?” I asked gently. He just nodded, looking stoic. There was obviously more to the story, but as I resolved not to press it, Noelle got asked to dance. I watched her weave her way to the dance floor with her partner and turned back around to find Cory looking at me intently. “She’s my ex-fiance,” he said softly.

“What?”

“The blonde in my photos. We were engaged. She broke off the engagement in July.”

Without thinking, I reached across the table to cover Cory’s hands with my own. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…”

“I know…” he shrugged, looking down at the table before looking up at me again. “It’s such an awful word isn’t it? ‘Ex-fiance.’ I hate saying it out loud.”

I paused, wondering how deep I wanted to go with him; then I ventured tentatively forward. “I was engaged once, too. He broke things off. Last July, actually. A year and a half ago.”

Cory looked surprised, and I went on, “We don’t have to talk about it, but if you ever want to process your thoughts and feelings with somebody who’s been through a broken engagement, I’m here for you. It will get better.”

My heart went out to him. It was still fresh for him. And, unbidden, another thought came into my mind: He is SO not available. We don’t share the same faith, don’t have the same world view, and he is only recently single after having his heart ripped out of his chest by an ex-fiance …So why does my heart feel full when I’m around him? Why am I so drawn to him? God, why is this my pattern, again and again? The bird with the broken wing is my personal Achilles’ heel. Heaven help me.

Authentically Aurora

 

Problematic Dreams – Part II

Reading in bed

Our “Pitch Perfect-esque” a cappella group has all of our members’ names listed on our website, so I assume that’s how Corythe musically proficient doctor-to-be – found me on Facebook.

The day after the talent show, I had a friend request waiting from him, and that was soon followed up by a private message asking me about my photography website. “Are the photos on your site all taken by you? Because they are freakin’ amazing.”

I replied back, and we moved on from talking about photography to music to language and literature. Cory told me more about his Triathlon training; then about his family. We moved back to music, agreeing on the most desirable opera to see in town during this year’s season. For a moment, I thought he might ask me to go with him, but he suddenly broke the flow of our conversation with: “Hard to go wrong with Russian composers. Hey, text me. Burning up data. Haha.” And he gave me his phone number.

Pausing briefly (“Oh gosh. Is this a good idea? Do I really want to get into this? Ugh. Stop over-analyzing. It’s just text messaging.”), I sent Cory a quick text so that he’d have my number, too. I suspected that burning up data was not the sole reason for the change of communication method. Sure enough, the tone of the conversation quickly turned more flirtatious.

After a few obligatory questions back and forth about work and school, Cory asked, “So, how do you feel about tattoos?”

My reply: “Hmmm. I’m not sure I have a strong opinion.” I made a quick assumption. “Where and how many? :)”

My assumption proved accurate. Cory just got his fifth tattoo and, as for the locations of the first four: “You could see all of them if I take off my shirt. ;)”

Before long, he actually sent me a shirtless photo of himself laying in bed with a book, along with the caption: “All I’m missing is a cup of coffee and a cuddle buddy.” Oh man. Was that an invitation? 

I redirected us to a safer topic (and one of my personal favorites): personality types. Once we determined one another’s Myers-Briggs types (Cory’s an ENFJ), any time I got too logical in response to his touchy-feeliness, he’d send me a teasing text, “Your T is showing, lol ;)”

Later in the week, I invited the rest of my a cappella group to go swing dancing with me. We’d been talking about doing it for a while, and I was ready to make it happen. After a quick conversation with Noelle, I decided to extend the invite to Cory, too. It would be a great way for him to start getting to know some of our members before his audition.

Cory seemed interested in going, but he had an evening lecture on campus that he needed to attend. He asked in a text, “Are you driving there?”

“Yep. Need a ride home after?” I thought he might be planning to take public transportation to the swing dancing venue.

“I was actually going to ask if you wanted to meet my dog and pick me up from med school and swing by my place? That would expedite things.” He explained that he needed to change after class; then also feed and walk his dog, Stout (named for the dark beer).

“He’s a great snuggler. :)” Cory added when I hesitated in responding to his text.

Pushing down my tendency to over-think things, I sent back a quick reply. “Where and when should I pick you up?” After hearing back from him with details, I sent one more text:

“On my way”, adding a private note to myself: Hopefully I don’t regret this.

Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part II

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.42.39 PMIn my recent adventure on the high seas, our sailing crew was comprised of starkly different characters. Tony, our skipper, encapsulated everything I’d imagined a skipper would be: rugged and weathered, with a tangled mass of shoulder-length hair, tattooed arms, beer in hand and never clad in anything more than a pair of swim trunks.

Elle, a curvy blonde in her 50s, is a British lawyer who smokes like a chimney and never ends the evening without her friends Gin & Tonic. Elle lives with abandon and a zeal for life that has led her on countless adventures of dancing in the sand and running off with passionate lovers. She’s lived a full and exciting life but, childless, divorced and advanced in years, she seems lonely. She travels the world but has no one to share life with but the locals who she inevitably befriends, but between throaty laughs, she speaks longingly of community and companionship.

While I found in Elle much that I hope to emulate – her zeal, passion and friendly playfulness – I learned the most from observing Jenna, a single 35-year-old from Boston. Jenna aced all of our written sailing exams, but when it came to working together on the rigging, she tended toward stress, either barking bossy orders and criticisms at other crew members or getting panicked and defensive when Tony pointed out something she needed to do differently.

I saw mirrored in Jenna my own perfectionism and the toll it took on not only her enjoyment of the trip but also her relationships with others. During long stretches of sailing on a single tack, Jenna would often read aloud to us from a sailing book she’d brought along. “Oooh, listen to this article on retractable keels!” I frequently saw Tony and Elle exchange glances – Is this girl for real? – but she remained oblivious to the way her unsolicited readings were received.

One night ashore at a beach bar on one of the many remote islands of the Grenadines, Jenna met a young American man over rum punch. After about six beers, Tony was ready to take the dingy back to our boat, but Elle ssh-ed him and gestured to Jenna. “Look at her! She’s forgotten all about her allergies and her Kindle and her lactose intolerance. Give her some time. She may dance in the sand yet!”

Although I agreed with Elle – this girl seriously needed to loosen up – I remember wondering if those are the kinds of comments people make about me when I’m out of earshot. As sweet at Jenna was, it pained me how much I related to her because I saw in Jenna not only my strengths – intellect, ambition and focus – but also many of the things I dislike about myself.

I know I should be who I am, but I hope that as I age, I will relax, live in the moment, and develop a bit more Elle in my Aurora.

Authentically Aurora