It had been four years since I had last left him standing and waving in the rear view mirror. After what we had done, I had no idea what was running through his mind, and I wasn’t sure if I cared. He had taken part time work at the boathouse where we had shared so many youthful memories of high school crew, and it was somewhat on my way out of town as I headed back to Los Angeles. I sauntered up to the door in my favorite four-dollar vintage western top, my tightest jeans, and an armful of fresh tattoo. Knowing he had girlfriend didn’t stop me from walking in with sex in my eyes and first love in my heart. Thankfully, only the former intention was apparent to him.
My early twenties were just starting to test life’s boundaries, pushing physical and emotional limitations to their breaking point. Letting him have me in the workroom was the beginning of my addiction to reckless exhilaration. It was also one of the first times I truly felt nothing and everything at the same time, and it was intoxicating. I drove away feeling the smug power of naïveté, thinking what a wonderful chapter in our story we had just concluded.
I knew it wasn’t the ending because I truly believe in bookends. He played such an important role in the beginning of my life, that surely he would be a reoccurring character, and perhaps, serendipitously a major player in the end. I also tend to lead life with an open door policy, allowing my relationships with people to be as fluid and rolling as the tides. People and relationships never truly leave you, but if you’re very lucky, they’ll always come back.
It surprised me very little when we encountered each other again, four years later. Over the years we engaged in minimal communication, an online chat here, a birthday wish there. I had always felt the wall he had erected between us to shield him from feeling anything for me. His band du jour was performing downtown, and I mentioned how close it was to where I lived. He suggested I attend the show, and I accepted the invitation.
It is an inherently female characteristic to feel compelled to peacock yourself in front of an ex, with the expectation that he will remember how amazing you are, and what a fool he was for letting you go. Rarely is the intention to win him back, but merely to show him what he is missing. It makes no sense, as there is nothing tangible to be gained from this vulnerable and risky act. I suspect that men do not have such desire to seek out an old romantic partner in such superficial spite. However, little boys are not trained to associate their outward appearance with their worth.
That said, I succumbed to nature and put on my very best outfit that screamed unintentional coolness and sophistication. I curled my hair and lacquered my lips before setting foot out the door and into the unusually cool Los Angeles night. I found the venue easily, and walked up to the warehouse with a confident stride. I knew which hole in the wall to approach by the influx of insanely hip twenty-somethings milling around outside, their American Spirits burning holes into the damp air.
As I approached the doorman, I realized there was an entrance fee that was only accepted in the form of cash. I managed to scrounge up four dollars, partially comprised of loose purse change, and offered it up to the beanie-clad man-child with a beaming smile.
“It’s five dollars,” he said unflinching to my typically effective charms.
“I know. I’m so sorry. Let me just ask my friend inside to spot me a dollar,” I pleaded.
“Fine, but you need to come back in five minutes,” he informed me. I shot him a disgusted look, my feather ruffled by a loser on a power trip. The no-named bands should have been paying us patrons to stand around listening to their clichéd notes bleeding into equally tread lyrics.
I walked over to a dark corner, and rummaged through my bag. In a fortuitous moment, I unearthed a one-dollar bill from the crevices of my fake leather satchel. Before I made an effort to find my ex, I did the responsible thing and stomped over to the insecure boy posing in hipsters’ clothing, throwing my currency at him.
Having logistics sorted, I tried to find my ex. I stood in my claimed corner while I stared at my phone, waiting for him to find me. I looked up to find my heart in stomach as I realized that there were quite a few other former high school classmates standing in a clump. I felt so naïve for not considering this might be the situation. My façade of calm, cool, and collected instantly fell away to reveal my sixteen year old self, uncomfortable near the popular table.
I took a few deep breaths before deciding to be the bigger person. I walked over to a girl who had run in a crowd with The Girls, and tapped her on the shoulder. She was surprising friendly and interested in what road my life had taken these past few years. I don’t know why I imagined the encounter to be any different; we were all adults. We chit chatted, my eyes darting around the room hoping he’d turn up any moment.
Then I saw him, descending a rickety staircase leading to a loft.