The Thing About Irony

March 7, 2013
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One strange day, an old friend of mine decided to pay me a rather perplexing visit. Though this visit did entail the company of a man I knew in a memory, the friend of whom I speak was no human – no, indeed, I refer to my old foe and most humorous companion as “universal irony”, something I may best define as: the way things only seem to come to us when we aren’t looking for them, and the way almost everything we expect seems to go to s***. My Mother raised me never to expect anything from anyone, and for a long while I resented that more than I can possibly say. But, there was a method to her madness. I’m not sure if she ever succeeded in accomplishing such detachment, but I do believe that no matter how hard someone may try, expectation (the little devil) will creep up and take a crap in the toilet of your mind until it clogs up someday and you’re suddenly on your psychological knees trying to clean up the mess. It’s inevitable that we expect things from people – in fact, we should be able to, but this pesky irony is the undoing of it all. I hate it, yet must laugh with her as she laughs at us all. What else is there to do? Having said this, it would make sense that on this strange day of which I speak, the shock I felt at encountering this figure from my past was mostly physical, as opposed to my mental reaction, which was “Ah, of course,” as I chuckled to myself.
He was the same as I remembered, or so he appeared to be as I studied him from my quiet station on the park bench. His skin was darker than I remembered – more of a chocolate hue than the bronze sheen of his teen years. A well-kept beard had taken up residence upon his chiseled chin, yet his cheekbones and jaw-line remained just as prominent and linear as they were 5 years before. He turned his face away from me, so I began to look over his body. Yes, just I had always foretold, he had filled out nicely. His frame was muscular and athletic – well dressed in fitted, tasteful clothing (though, dark and plain. I wasn’t surprised to see that he retained the somewhat morbid, reserved countenance which made him seem more mature than the reality of his irrational 17-year-old behavior). I suddenly realized with much embarrassment and alarm that my heart was racing, and my thighs were clenched tightly together as if to try and satiate the bells going off at the top of them, where they met.
Holy s***, is this a joke? 10 years and still? We had a pretty good time for two kids, but come on.
At this point another rationale took over me. He was still an extremely attractive man, especially as far as I was concerned. Tall, dark, and handsome also spell out: run away. As if I hadn’t been staring at the man for the past 10 minutes, all at once I became aware that I couldn’t simply keep to the shadows and pretend this wasn’t happening. A mixture of curiosity, shock, and sex drive was prompting me to get off my ass and go speak to him – even though my pulse seemed to have decided it was going to have a dance party without my permission. As I walked over to him in a dream-like state, I barely noticed anything around me. Something in the back of my head briefly warned me not to forget that the last time I had seen him, he was being arrested with a bloody nose and 10 grams of cocaine in his bag. The vivid picture of his bloodshot eyes and helplessness had lingered in my head for years, and at some point had finally destroyed the last bit of my glorified idea of him (or, who he had been). I had been so consumed by my thoughts that when I realized I was standing in front of him, I was relieved to find that his reaction was swift and exaggerated, so as to avoid any awkward re-introductions on my part.

At first, he bent down and squinted his eyes in precognitive examination, as though he was hoping it was me but couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t simply imagining things. I had to grin – it gave me a large amount of satisfaction to imagine that perhaps all this time he had whipped around at the sight of every petite woman who resembled me, trying to discern whether he had really found me again. His eyes widened, as everything clicked and he truly recognized my smile.

“Jesus Christ, Vivianne? Is that really you?” he asked, in the same voice which had filled my ears so often at one time in my life.

“Yeah Jax, it’s me. Ha-ha- oh!” I couldn’t help but squeal as he hugged me so tightly that every ounce of breathe left my body at once.

What an oaf. He never did learn to remember his size, the big pup.
Once he’d sufficiently bruised my rib cage, I stepped back breathlessly and looked him over (or, pretended to as though I hadn’t already) and then said “F***, you really haven’t changed much, you know that? Except for this,” I reached out and bopped him on the chin playfully.
“Yeah, it’s weird right? Of course, when we were together, you were about 15 and probably thought facial hair was disgusting. I don’t think I ever even considered growing mine out,” he replied. We both laughed, beaming at each other. We had been really f*ed up as teenagers – got into a lot of trouble, had a lot of fun (maybe way too much), but it wasn’t until then that it occurred to me how close we had been. Despite everything else that happened – we were young, stupid, in love (and lust), and probably high all the time – we had cared for each other more than we knew was humanly possible at the time.
I broke the brief, intimate bridge of smiles with a question.
“What are you doing here, of all places? Last I heard from someone, you were still living in New York,”
“It’s been a long time, Viv. Last time I was here, it was because my sister had gotten into an accident and Mom-Karen, you remember, sorry, was a mess. I’m here now because of work – I’m into publishing now, I don’t know if anyone told you. I used to really f*in’ hate coming back here – it’s been a while, but I still look at certain corners, I don’t know – every memory is dark. I still associate everything with the drugs, or the cops, or rehab. Sorry, s***! Listen to me, I sound like Poe, going on like this. What have you been doing, you moved back from San Fran?” he trailed off at the end, throwing out his question as though it were a vague possibility. He had never been one to use his hands when he talked – I always thought that came from insecurity as a kid about having such long fingers. We used to tell him he looked like an alien.

“Yeah, that’s right. I loved it there, but after a while of being away, I realized I’d been waking up every day and wondering why the hell I wasn’t here, where it’s sunny all the time and even if everything’s a mess, there’s always time to contemplate your life while you’re stuck in traffic on the 101,”.

He laughed at that – a true, full sound which came from his stomach. For a moment, I thought my sentimentality might rear its ugly head and make me cry. Oh, how I had missed that laugh. After he started using, it was like a part of him was gone all the time – he was still the same on the surface, but of course, none of the goons he was hanging out with ever noticed the fact that his eyes were as dead as a Christmas turkey.
“Wow, I am so incredibly happy to see you. Of all the times I passed someone on the street who looked like you, and had to turn around and figure out if it was – sorry, I sound like a freak. I was just, here today, reading, hanging out, chain-smoking, the usua-“
“Oh man, still smoking? Even after all the s*** I gave you for it?,” He pinched my arm, and smiled at me. It had been our little joke – every time I’d light a cigarette he’d say, “God, they’re so bad for us. Let’s quit,” and then I’d say, “Okay let’s do it, today?” and he’d say, “No, tomorrow! Gimme a drag,” and then tomorrow would come and the same thing would happen all over again. I guess that’s the great thing about tomorrow – it happens every day.
“Ah, I’m just teasing, but you’ll never believe it – I actually quit, last year. It’s been 9 months,” he said, with a serious expression of pride on his face.
My heart was doing backflips again – I never thought I’d see this boy as a man, much less a man who seemed mature and genuinely conscientious.
“Jax, that’s wonderful, I’m so glad for you! I swear, I’ll get around to it one of these days! You know, it’s just never a good time in this crazy world. Maybe I’ll move to Hawaii,”
“Sarcastic as ever, I see. I’ve really missed you Vivianne. Sounds funny, I know, but I have to say – it’s been 5 years…f***, sound even worse to say it out loud...anyway, I can’t even tell you the amount of times I wanted to thank you, and talk to you…see you again. What are you doing later? I’m supposed to meet my sister and her little boy here, but are you busy? Can I take you to dinner, pay you back finally?”
I outwardly cringed at the last remark – it was a tasteless joke in reference to all the money I had lent him when he was in a really bad spot with his dealer; money I had stolen from my parents. “Ha! Nice, Jax. I’d say it’s too soon, but you know me – always the sensitive b****,” I said as I rolled my eyes at him and smiled. “It just so happens that I’m free this evening, but because it’s a Saturday and any respectable 22 year-old with a good job and nice t**s should be busy, I’ll just pretend I had something to do but dinner with you sounds better. There I go – as you can see, I still have no filter whatsoever,”
I was somewhat mortified. Even though it had been a long time, I was still acting like we were close enough for me to say whatever the hell I wanted to. But, then again, it’s a little hard to maintain any real glamour in front of someone who’s seen you naked so many times (despite the fact that my curves had become considerably more womanly since then).
“Dinner it is, I’ll surprise you. Give me your number. I’m staying in Hollywood, but I’ve got a car,”
He handed me his phone and I punched my number in it, hardly believing that I was going to dinner with my hot-older-ex-drug-addict-high-school-boyfriend-who-ruined-my-adolescent-life. He took his phone again and said, “And by the way, your lack of filter will never get old,”. I looked up at him, and just there

- swimming through his eyes like a little shark – was that same spark I felt in my stomach. I felt a stab of ice in my stomach and tried to tell myself it was only his looks. I started to bite my lip, then realized I was biting my lip because I was turned on, and started to look around nervously instead. I was thinking:

S***, pull yourself together, Viv. This is ridiculous. Stop acting like a 15 year old.
“See you later, Viv,” said Jax, as he pulled me into him by my waist and kissed my cheek. “Later, Jax,” I breathed, and just like that I was turning around and walking away, holding my hand to the spot on my cheek his lips had touched, repeating the same thing under my breathe like a prayer:
“F***, f***, f***, f***,f***,f***….”
It was a strange day, a strange day indeed, but now as I gaze upon the same face I pondered from a distance on that occasion; it slumbers peacefully on a morning pillow – my pillow. I must think to myself now, isn’t it funny? The irony of it all is boggling, yet I cannot complain, with this smile across my face. It may be true that one should never expect anything from anyone, but in the end, what’s really the use if they’re only going to surprise you anyway?

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