My stepdad got a job in another state on the other side of the country. Perfectly convenient given the summer I had just spent with the very amazing, very captivating Ruben Ramirez. I received this information when I returned home on the second day of school. What could one do but accept the grueling terrors of my parents’ decisions that I believed would ruin my life? That’s sarcasm of course. I cried, I told her to let me stay with my friend Charlyze, my friend Kat, anyone so that I could finish out the school year in my home, the first place I ever truly felt I belonged. I told her about the poets, and how much opportunity I had if she would just let me stay. As it turns out, never in my life would staying with my parents really have any benefit on my creative talents in any way whatsoever.
It was decided that I would leave. Out of a couple hundred guys lined up to take the job; my stepdad had to be one of roughly 5 or 6 who would actually earn it. The entire reason we had moved in the first place was because he had gotten a better job than he originally had, now, after a mere 3 years, he was doing the same thing again. There was nothing I could do but cry and pray for a miracle, and of course make every promise in the world to return to the city to make my living and be closer to my dear Ruben and all of that cheesy nonsense that really never ends up happening even in the loveliest of love stories.
It was devastating to know that not only would I be leaving the city, but that I would be leaving the city while also holding on tip the strings that had attached me to it in the first place: the poets. They had taught me all I wanted to know while I was there. They had helped me grow into the person I was now becoming. Because of that, I knew that, in my state of growth, I must now move on.
Ruben made promises; he would see me during the weekend, we’d get to be alone together for a short while. He wanted to feel how “tight” I was. He had also requested a final gift before I left the city. He wanted me to write poetry on a pair of (ahem) panties and give it to him as a gift. Awkward as the suggestion was, I obliged him, if only to leave him with something to remember me by. Now, I can’t remember precisely what poem I wrote on this pair of panties, but I do recall writing it with a black marker, and I wrote something about the difficulties in saying goodbye to someone so dear, and how difficult it would be to move on without him. For a pair of panties, I thought it was all quite nice to be perfectly honest.
I recall talking to Fritz about leaving even though he didn’t have me as a student anymore. He was a great teacher, a good person at heart. A student like me couldn’t help but seek wisdom from someone like him. He told me never to return to the city, not even to visit. “This place sucks you in. If you don’t get out immediately, you never will.” He knew what had been going on throughout my summer, it was almost obvious. When I admitted to him who it had been that I fallen in love with over the summer, he nodded at the word Ruben. “I know.” I was appalled to hear that. But after a little bit of advice from him, and a short sharing of stories of love, he told me something I’ll never forget hearing. “You may not think he’s taking advantage of you, but people sometimes do it to others without really realizing that they’re doing it or even that they’re doing something wrong. Break it off. You’ll be happier to know that you had the summer, but don’t drag it on, because you’ll just end up hurting both of you.”
Oh Fritz, if only you could see me now. And you actually used to rather like Ruben and his work from what I remember.
Despite Ruben’s “efforts”, I didn’t get to see him the weekend before the final poetry read; I didn’t get to talk to him very much at all. I showed up a little overdone: my very favorite purple lip gloss, short skirt(of course that’s only after my mother dropped me off and I changed out of my black capris which had a fresh new button sewn on), tank top, and a pair of tall-heeled sandals that were severely difficult to walk in. I arrived almost an hour before anyone else because my mother had a series of errands she needed to run off and take care of. I drank a coffee while I waited for someone, anyone else to show up.
I hung around with a few of the other poets (poets that, while wonderful friends during that summer, had nothing to do with this situation or, for that matter, me after things with Ruben and I blew up) until Ruben arrived. His car was screwed up and he had gotten a ride from Jess and her boyfriend. He showed up almost an hour late.
We took the first chance we got to be alone together. At first, we just stood outside to talk for a moment while he smoked a cigarette, but he snuck to the bathroom with me some time into the poetry read, which was actually going pretty well. If Ruben hadn’t been there, I still would have enjoyed the visiting poets. We walked down through an empty stairwell leading to nowhere important because we stood at the mid-section of the staircase and didn’t bother to hide any further than that. I remember how it felt to have his hands wrapped around me, like the rest of the world wasn’t important, like I could almost believe he loved me more than anything.
To be honest, nothing too terribly interesting happened in that stairwell. I leaned back onto the stairs, pulling him down with me, wishing, hoping and at the same time not. I wanted to have his love, completely and entirely, but in my heart I knew I might never truly have it and that nothing I did would ever really make him give it to me. Alas, I’m getting a bit too far ahead of myself.
We tried, god how we tried to get alone with each other that night. As many times as we ended up alone, we finally gave up on our final attempts for me to give what I knew he wanted to have. He told me that, in the end, he would want me more with each passing day that he didn’t have me. Ruben would be willing to wait it out for me; he wanted me more when he knew he couldn’t have me. Later, Ruben would say that it took all he had in him not to take me that very night, and thinking back now I wonder if he should have. Would that have ended our summer long infatuation? Would we have been caught that very night and been unable to see each other ever again? Who knows…
I gave him his gift, and he gave me mine, a gift that I had suspected, but had not completely expected from him. He gave me a beautiful notebook with a Japanese drawing of waves on it. In fact, this is the exact drawing it had on it:
Yeah. It was really pretty. He handed it to me casually and said, “I expect to get this back full.” I almost cried. I haven’t been able to find one like it since that day. There was a Canadian poetry slam sticker on the inside of it, and about 3 or 4 of Ruben’s own poems in it, a few on the front and a couple on the back, upside down. I was going through his black notebook when he handed it to me and told me to take one; I couldn’t morally do it. I loved all of his poems, my favorite being one of the longest he had in there. Instead I took the shortest one he had, a 2 page love poem I had once heard him read at school.
The poetry read ended a lot sooner than I had hoped it would. We stood outside to talk as everyone else gathered their things and prepared to leave. We were talking, I was leaning against the brick wall outside the shop when Ruben looked over my shoulder and told me that a friend of his was watching. Of course, I gave myself completely away by turning around and looking over at him after Ruben said this. That guy blocked me on Facebook shortly after that day.
I remember looking at him and wishing for one last beautiful, endearing assurance that this would not be the last time I saw him. I wanted something strong enough for me to hold on to; I wanted love. I looked up at him, asked him for one final request before I had to leave the comfort of the city, the beauty in our short moments together. “Lie to me.” I said. There was no beating around the bush, no tip-toeing around what I wanted from him; he knew what was being asked of him.
“Lie? But why? Why not wait until I mean it, until there’s more to this than what we have?” He rocked a bit on his heels, looking around some, but never really taking his attention off the matter at hand.
“I need this. I need to be able to leave knowing that something more happened here than the imaginative crush of a 16 year old girl who is never going to be in this position again.”
“If I wasn’t in the situation I’m in…” He trailed off, looked around some more. He looked at me with a look on his face that would have made someone think he was proposing sex to me if they had looked out the window of the coffee shop. “I love you.”
He didn’t say it loud; he probably didn’t even mean it. But I jumped into his arms and kissed him one last time, the last time my lips ever came in contact with his. He pulled me off immediately, asking if I was crazy. We were almost caught, probably seen by the guy who worked at the coffee shop in fact. I would’ve cared if I wasn’t absolutely sure this would be the last time I saw him. This was the night; the first time I ever heard that word slip passed his lips like he was breathing it into mine, “Lolita”.
Ruben said that I made him think of her because of the way I talked, the way I behaved in conversation with him. The way I bit my lip sometimes when I wanted him… I had never seen the movie, never read the book. He told me I had some studying to do then, and that I should read the book sometime.
I couldn’t kiss him goodbye, couldn’t tell him how much I loved him, or make my promises to see him again. I could only hug him like everyone else as I left; make arms lingered a second longer around him than around anyone else, my body pressed against his only a moment longer than against anyone else. He could say only that he would miss me and that we’d see each other again real soon and advise me to find a poetry slam where I was moving or create one myself. Oh Ruben, if only you knew how far I’ve come. If you only knew the things I’ve done since I left you, the hurt and happiness I’ve faced since that final terrible day…
My mother came for me; the song “Happy” by Leona Lewis was playing in the car. For those of you who have never heard it before, here is the link:
I can’t say I didn’t cry, didn’t curse my mother for taking me away from the city right when I had found my place and right when I had decided I was truly happy. But this, though it was the last time I would ever see Ruben or the other poets again, was not the end. Had I ended things here, at this moment, I might have saved myself what heartache this relationship caused me. I might have continued to love Ruben as I once did. I might have, in fact, even possibly been able to see him again when I made my summer trip to the city. One can only things would have been different, but the what ifs can never change the now….