There is a fine line between brave and stupid, and I like to walk it. I always have.
Climbing trees, going as high as I could, people on the ground looking up with concerned expressions of “That is a broken bone waiting to happen.” on their faces.
Catching snakes in the lawn, watching my cousin back away as I try to show him the scaly prisoner in my hands.
Sighing during a pandemonium in geometry class, ripping a page out of my notebook and coaxing a lazy bumblebee to crawl on it, walking by 30 agape mouths and depositing the insect out doors. You’re 500 times the size of it, it should be afraid of you. “You’re so brave.” they said, closing their mouths.
Lying to my parents and going to punk rock shows every week by myself, in the wrong parts of town. Some depressed teens cut themselves, I dyed my hair and flung myself into a mosh pit of dudes twice my size and savored the resulting bruises that covered my arms.
Choosing a college on the opposite side of the country where I knew absolutely no one. Taking a 3 day train ride, all by myself, to get there.
Getting all four wisdom teeth out with merely local anesthesia. I could feel the breaking of the enamel and the pounding on my jaw bone, the taste of copper through the numbness.
Moving to New York City 2 weeks after graduation with no savings and a minimum wage job prospect. Surviving almost three years against all odds, health failures, and lack of security.
Letting a boy I’d barely known 3 weeks move into my tiny apartment with me. Taking precautions toward financial consequences but relying solely on trust for potential personal ones.
I know don’t know him that well, but I’m going to let him stay with me while he finds another place, I told my friend Mika over mediocre Japanese food. I’m not going to give him a key or anything, so he’ll really only be there when I am. I know it’s risky, but it’s not like I have anything worth stealing, plus he really seems like a good guy. I really like him, more than I thought I would.
“Did you ever think maybe the reason you like him so much is circumstantial? Because he’s only here temporarily?” she asked, as though guiding me to a grand discovery.
Yes! I said loud enough so that several people looked up from their over salted Miso, Oh, I am fully aware of that. It’s the crazy, temporary, I-can’t’believe-I’m-really-doing-this.-Is-this-real-life-or chicklit? nature that always appeals to me. I won’t lie, I’m totally drawn to the chance we fall madly in love and I join him on his around-the-world journey. I’m a dreamer and hopeless romantic. Besides, I bet I could get a great advance on that book deal, even as a complete unknown with no experience.
If you’ve ever lived with someone, you know such an arrangement is easily more conducive to falling out of love, rather than in. So it will not come as a shock when I tell you he moved in and I did not fall in love. Want five reasons why? #1 He had proclivity for alcohol that seemed to equate it with “the highest form of fun”. #2He preferred to sleep all day instead of exploring New York City. #3 He sang the most annoying songs- Puff the Magic Dragon, Jingle Bells– repeatedly. #4He left his bag open with contents spilled on my floor, instead of keeping it in the space I’d cleared out under my bed and other inconsiderate things like #5 It was always a crap shoot (pun not intended but I love it) if he’d remember to put the toilet seat down.
And yet I had just as many reasons to enjoy my brand new roommate. #1 He cooked delicious pasta, recipes from his grandmother whom he had recently visited in Italy. #2 He made me laugh in a full body, “I forget the stresses of being an adult”, uninhibited kind of way. #3 There is rarely someone in my life whom I can expect regular back massages from. I have mentioned it before, I have a not-so-secret wish to marry a masseuse. Not only that, the way he said “mass-ah-juh” in his Safa accent was adorable. #4 The afternoon I dragged him out of my bed to go to the Natural History Museum and we spent an hour in the Hall of African Mammals where he told me stories about South Africa, hunting trips with his dad, and gave me a potentially life-saving lesson about the “Big Five” (the five animals that may attack, rather than flee, when they see a human: Lion, Elephant, Black Rhino, Hippopotamus, Water Buffalo). #5 This reason is not “family friendly”. You may, if you wish, use your imagination.
And so when he ended up staying with me longer than I might have expected, I was glad. It was easy, fun, care-free, and I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I wasn’t seeing any trips around the world in my future. However, I did have a trip in my immediate future that meant I’d be gone for the entirety of his penultimate week in town. I briefly considered letting him stay in my room while I was gone, but decided against it. I wondered what he’d do while I was gone, wondered about his last week in NY, but left everything up in the air. Would we talk while I was gone? How would it be seeing him when I got back and he wasn’t living with me? Maybe he’d find another girl, I didn’t think he would, but couldn’t rule it out as I’d no longer know where he was spending his nights. It was a trial separation, for the inevitable separation.
Then he texted me not even 24 hours after I’d left, telling me how much he missed me. “I miss you and that’s not allowed. I’m breaking the rules :)” It was the first of many such texts. Text messages that made me feel special. He misses me, I mean something to him. Text messages that made me happy. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Text messages that made me say Yes, I’d really like that when he asked if he could stay with me again upon my return. Text messages that lead me in the exact opposite direction of where I should have been going. I want to visit you in Barbados (the next stop on his trip). Text messages that gave me no inkling of the shit I would discover after my return to New York. He really cares about me. That in hindsight make me shake my head at myself: stupid, stupid, stupid!
[To continue The Safa Boy Series, click for Part Four]