Leaving Ruben for “bumfuck middle America” as he called it meant that I had to keep in touch the only way I could: email. I didn’t have a cell phone, and my stepfather wasn’t about to let me use his computer to do, well, anything. On top of that, what little I could use the computer for was closely monitored by my stepfather checking the history and shouting at me for any little thing I did in addition to any homework or research my mother practically had to beg him to allow me to do. I’m not going to go into detail because it’s not important, but using my stepdad’s home computer was obviously out of the question.
Email wasn’t difficult to access at school; thankfully, it was one of the few sites that weren’t blocked by filtering. Inadvertently though, the librarians at the front had a computer from which they could not only view everything we were doing, but click on our screens and forcibly exit us out of the site we were on that we weren’t supposed to be on. When they did this, they would usually block internet access from that specific user. This happened to me several times before I got into the habit of choosing a computer close enough for me to watch the librarian and make my move whenever she happened to step away from her desk or tend to someone checking out a book. Through this technique, I was able to email Ruben almost everyday. Of course, he wasn’t able to do the same thing, so on a normal day I would check my email and only message Ruben if he messaged me. I say this now, but I remember messaging him as often as I possibly could.
I recall one particular message I sent him:
Every morning, I have to get up at 5, leave the house at 6:30, and be at school before the bell rings at 7:30. Just as I’m walking out the door, it’s still nighttime, the stars are still out, and it makes me think a lot of you. And all the nights we used to sit outside the perk talking, and me looking up at the city lights and all the buildings surrounding us…it was always so beautiful. It helps me take my mind off the bullshit day ahead of me, the assholes I have to deal with, the homework, all the background; it ceases to exist for a short 10 minutes of my morning when it’s just me walking out on the empty, lonely sidewalk, only you and the city on my mind…..
I thought of that when I was walking to my bus stop to go to school. His response to it was this:
Those same thoughts invade me when im at the perk and im waiting around at the end of it all, and theres no one to take home, no one to talk to on the ride away fromn downtown,,,i think of you too, and i miss you...
One of few messages between him and I that had no sexual references in it. I guess that’s what made it mean so much to me, what made me want to share it with my readers….
So I would sometimes send him pictures. I’d take my mother’s phone into the bathroom and take as provocative a picture as I could manage without her noticing I was trying to terribly hard to do so. I would obviously always delete them immediately after, but I didn’t want to take the chance of her somehow being able to retrieve the pictures and find out what I was doing. This obviously doesn’t sound good. Every time I would send a picture or two, Ruben would ask me to get a little more “risqué” with my picture-taking
when are you gonna send me naughty pics?
What you gonna be for Halloween, and are you gonna send me pics?
I will be waiting for your next letter and also for those elusive pix!
I think I’ve made my point here. Of course, that’s not all he would talk about. It’s simply the fact that almost every message between me and Ruben led back to something sexual, most often an inquiry in when I was going to send him more pictures and could I please try getting a little more risky with them? But I’m not completely innocent here. I gave in to these requests. I wanted to keep him happy; I wanted to hear him tell me how beautiful and sexy I was. Often he would say other things as well, such as how tremendously he missed me, or how strange and difficult it was for him to go about his poetic business without me there. I would sometimes play out old scenes in my mind, wondering if he was reenacting those same things in his. And I held onto every single word he typed into his computer, sending me messages, plucking particular words out of every message that might have meant love. And did they?? Well…
Well, I once asked him how he saw our future. Did he see us together? Did he ever imagine seeing me again?
the future is a mixed blessing, because we hope for so much and sometimes we are delivered so little, or too much, in our future i see us always being friends, and perhaps more, perhaps lovers, perhaps more...i really like you, and i want you to pursue whatever the future brings, i cannot think to see you grounded in one place, but constantly moving, always growing and going and seeing whatthe world has to offer, and if im able to get to ride with you on occasion then it wouldbe fantastic, just know that i'll always be here to lend an ear or to voice an opinion...our future at the moment is going in two different directions, but once it is all said and done, who knows what else might happen...but your life is yours and no one elses, never get subdued into someone else's life, especially men, because men are very selfish and never do they listen to what a woman wants or needs...this includes me, i can say it openly because i have accepted my asshole-itude, is that a word?
I can remember crying a little when I read this. I wasn’t sure if he said what he meant as if to tell me to give up on the possibility of us ever truly being together, or if he simply meant that he truly didn’t want me to put too terribly much hope in him because I shouldn’t devote myself completely to him. At any rate though, I suppose I understood what he meant to some degree. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine us together somehow, someway…
We had discussed my pictures getting a little more risqué, and he constantly said he couldn’t wait until I finally had my own phone so I could send him much better pictures. Well, as a Christmas gift Romero, a great friend since 8th grade, sent me a phone so it would be easier for him to talk to me. I sent him a Bluetooth for Christmas. I received my first cell phone ever the day after Christmas. I emailed him my number and received a text back later that evening. When I asked who it was, he replied “A famous poet.” I immediately knew it was him and had responded with “OMG Ruben!!” Had that not actually been him, I would have been screwed, but I knew that though Ruben was somewhat of a hometown hero, and many people knew him, he was one of few poets I knew with such a large ego.
The reason receiving this Christmas gift is so relevant in the story is because of the fact that it is such a significant tool in explaining how this first text message between Ruben and me was the beginning of what became a spiral downward. This spiral would almost be the support beam to the relationship Ruben and I shared; the support beam that not only held us up, but would eventually bring us down…
In my next post, I’ll discuss reading “Lolita” and what the name meant to me, especially when that spring came around…