The 15-year-old in me is still surprised when I realize not everyone was obsessed with Copeland and Kurt Halsey when they were in high school. Most people have no idea who they are. I still check out Halsey’s most recent work from time to time, however, and remember the happiness I felt from something so simple, whimsical and pretty.
(I confess- this painting was the inspiration for my tattoo. Though it’s interpretation was completely different and means something utterly unrelated to the piece, I still find it funny that it struck me so strongly.)
Last night we discussed boycotting winter- we will don bright colors! No more socks! Wear tank tops under our coats! Swap warm drinks for tropical ones! Get our coffee iced!
So you can imagine that waking up to a surprise snow at 2AM makes this defensive move against the season slightly more tricky. This afternoon I helped a woman in Sarasota as she shopped poolside for her son, and when I told her I grew up in Florida she (of course) asked if I was missing the weather.
"I miss the beach," I answered truthfully. "But I know summer will come, and we’ll have earned it after the winter."
When I rounded the corner on the way to work yesterday morning a man caught my eye and said, “Yeah girl, you a model!”
Today, another called after me, “Your blue eyes are beautiful.”
The snow is melting and so are our frozen exteriors. A few more weeks and we can let the energy that has been pent up all winter out- wander from bar to bar, take a leisurely stroll through TriBeca on a Sunday afternoon, or walk aimlessly around the East Village until 3AM just because it is warm and we can.
I love feeling unaccomplished after dragging my ass out of bed at 5AM to go to the gym and ride nine miles and work out for an hour. And then getting pummeled by the wind on my way home so forcefully that I wish it were a person so I could kick their throat makes it even better.
Do you remember the feeling of discovery when you realized you were good at something?
Maybe you felt humbled, maybe you felt proud. Or perhaps your talents have always been a part of you and you can’t quite place the moment in time that you realized you had an untapped ability, something in you that you never knew was there.
My discoveries were never my own. I only realized certain strengths after they were blatantly pointed out to me by other individuals. In the third grade, I hoped to earn a reading level that would point me to the books with a bright pink sticker on the spine; an average reading level, but I was nervous that testing my skills would suggest I peruse books with a blue sticker (designating a low second grade reading level). When we received index cards with our names and a sample spectrum of the stickers most befitting our reading abilities, I was anxious to see so many of my classmates receiving cards with the coveted color. Until Mrs. Crim placed mine in front of me.
"You’re a strong reader, Rebekah," she told me. "I’m proud of you!"
I had an orange, a light blue, and a black sticker- the only one in the the room with those hues, and the only third grader reading on a seventh grade level. By the time I was actually in the seventh grade, my mother would attempt to slip whatever book I was presently immersed in out of my school bag each morning, hoping I would socialize instead of read.
This year I vow to make, for the first time, a discovery of my own. I will not eschew inspiration, but I will not leave it to another person to point out a strength (and only believe I am truly able because someone else said so). I will dabble into this, dip my toes into that, until I find something new- and something I can truly claim for myself.
Music always creates memories, stirs something inside you, transports you to a particular time and place without your permission. There are a few songs that never fail to rip me from the present; my mind blanks, and suddenly I am 16. It is 6:53AM and the sun is rising behind Brandon Town Center, my windows are down and the cool morning breeze whips through my car, my hair, creating a cyclone of papers and old receipts that are littered throughout the front and back seats. Reinventing Your Exit blasts from my speakers, a loud contrast to the silent streets.
And then it fades away and I walk into Chris’s house. David is standing on the arm of the couch, eyes closed, screaming into a microphone. Luke is thrashing and Ryan is rocking his hips back and forth and I smile at my friends as Kendra grabs my arm and we watch the boys play.
Squished in the backseat between Jessica and Christine, the windows are down but instead of a refreshing breeze the humid Florida night creeps in and settles in our hair, on our clothes as we drive through side streets in Tampa. Pin Your Wings takes me to that stoplight, the red glowing brightly and casting a red haze on the side of Luke’s face, Kendra’s soft voice floating throughout the old Civic and into the streets.
A crazy thought crosses my mind- “Let’s go swimming!” But then Alex and I lay on our stomaches, facing one another, grasp hands, Hollaback Girl on repeat and the other girls jumping on couches, sloshing their drinks and stumbling and laughing. We start chastising the other for thinking so poorly of herself: “YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL,” she slurs. “BEKAH, YOU’RE A MODEL.”
"ALEX," I plead. "ALEX, I LOVE YOU. I WISH I WERE TINY AND GORGEOUS AND IRRESISTIBLE LIKE YOU." We try so hard to convince one another of her worthiness, but eventually I let my cheek rest on the tile which is so cold when my face is burningburningburning. I want to make a blanket of the tile but Hollaback Girl is distracting me, pulling me in and out of consciousness, until suddenly the cold wins and I hear voices murmuring in concern. I am in a crisp, cool cocoon though, and I am not ready to leave, and I refuse to, until I am ready. Or someone carries me to a couch.
California, though. Fucking California, creeps into my mind, my consciousness, every time I hear that guitar riff my throat clogs and I see your profile, the sun blinding the details of your face but I see the outline, and as soon as I begin to relish in the wonder, the unfamiliar familiarity you turn to me and your wide brown eyes seep into mine, and I cannot focus on anything but your gaze, the smile; you’re grasping my hand, singing softly, but break the grasp to shift from I-75 to 275 as the guitar pounds that familiar sound oh so familiar sound that we would listen to two years from now but that is so far away, so long from now. And I still remember that weekend, after California and during Pretend Your Alive, we missed Go because you reached over and touched my hair, at Lumsden and Lithia, and we kissed and my heart stopped. I thought, This is right.**
Two years later we sat on the trunk of your white Corolla after my graduation and the bass and the cool gulf breeze made me tremble. We watched the waves gently lap against the rocks and listened. (I also thought of how far we had come, and how often that song happened to be playing in the background.)
The memories are vivid yet painless; I am taken back to that instant as an indifferent spectator, feeling every single physical element exactly. But the songs fail to recapture the tumult, the dizzying whirlwind of emotions, the teenage tenacity that plagued me but I refused to acknowledge. All I can do is remember, and not feel.
**a continuation, written over several drunk texts to myself on the F train at 3AM.