Eleven Nine

 

     You remember little things like the air freshener in the Lyft on the way to Q’s, or the conversation you have with the driver about how the Pitbull Globalization station on SiriusXM is actually really good, even though Pitbull is corny as hell. You listen while he’s selling you on this; he’s actually right, but you can’t tell if you think he’s right because you’re so easily influenced. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

         

     It's the feeling of the bright sun overhead, even though Daylight Savings ended earlier in the week and you know it’ll be dark much sooner than it feels like it should. It’s the cars parked along Bundy in the lane that should be for driving. It’s Pitbull, fist-pumping and wearing his stupid fucking sunglasses. But it really is a good mix, the driver deserves credit.

         

     It's stepping out of the car after he swings a wild u-turn right across Wilshire. It’s looking up at Q’s and recalling the times you’ve recently been here: March Madness, earlier in the year, when the B-list actor came in and watched with his buddy. What was his name? Something. St. Patrick’s Day, three years ago, when you had to negotiate with the bouncer to get someone in. It’s thinking about the year you’ve had – the last few months you’ve had – and about how this little escape for the day was probably a good thing. Just some college football. Georgia was the night game, and that’s why you’re meeting up with Nic. LSU at Alabama was the headliner in the afternoon.

     It’s not college football. It’s not Q’s, or Pitbull, or a conversation with a Lyft driver named Vladimil. It's tipping him $5 because you feel like good things happen when you're good to people. It’s feeling like you’re able to do something that makes you feel like yourself again. It’s freedom. It's you, being you.
 

     You remember Alabama losing at home. You remember moving up to the second floor for the Georgia game. You remember enjoying the crowd that has assembled. You remember crushing a few White Claws, and you kind of remember the three or four picklebacks you and Nic took. You remember it was four, because Georgia scored four touchdowns. Or maybe they didn’t. You don’t remember everything, you’re not fucking Rainman. But you remember they won, and you remember Nic not wanting the night to end.
 

     You didn’t either. So you remember getting into Kat’s car, and the couple with the guy named Evan and the girl who you don’t really remember but who was seeing the guy named Evan. You remember someone suggesting Gas Lite. You don’t remember who. You owe them a drink or two, whoever it was.
 

     You remember Evan singing something with a lot of passion. He kind of looked like the lead singer of Creed, so now you remember it as him singing a Creed song, but that doesn’t sound right at all. It was some late 90’s / early 2000’s pop-punk, Blink 182-esque anthemic song. He did an alright job. You remember him looking a little nervous and like the crowd wasn’t feeling it, maybe 45 seconds in. But he powered through, and you cheered him on. Evan whoever. With the girl with no name.
 

     You remember signing up for your karaoke song. You remember googling the lyrics to it because you didn’t want to talk such a big game about it being your karaoke song only to forget how the fucking thing goes. You remember having it open on your browser the next day. You took a screenshot of it to commemorate your lack of confidence in yourself. You remember bringing Nic up on stage with you to sing the falsetto parts at the end. You don’t know if falsetto is the right word, but you think that means the high-voiced parts. He sang those parts.
 

     You remember feeling great, up there. You remember not giving a shit who was listening or what you looked like. The Gas Lite has a nice way of obliterating your inhibitions like that. Maybe because it is like a dungeon, or maybe there’s something special about it. You know there’s something special about it, actually, but saying it out loud feels silly because it’s just a karaoke bar.
 

     You remember the first time you met her eyes, framed by her short, dark hair. Her delicate shoulders were exposed behind the thinnest of straps on her shirt, and you remember connecting stares for a moment, across the room. You remember looking back and doing it again. You remember Kat telling you to go talk to her. You remember asking Kat if she was cute, and you remember Kat’s enthusiastic face when she nodded in response and said yes! Yes!
 

     You don’t remember walking up to her or the first thing you said to her. You don’t remember what time it was. You don’t remember if she laughed, or smiled, or mostly anything about the conversation except when you asked her what she did, she politely demurred and didn’t really give you an answer. You remember legitimately not caring what her answer was, but it just felt like the thing you ask. You remember feeling a little stupid for asking that question like it even fucking mattered what a person you met at a karaoke bar does when they are not at the karaoke bar.
 

     You remember the popcorn machine had run out of popcorn and the look of her disappointment as she held her empty container in both of her hands. You remember walking out the back door and standing outside with her for a while. You remember her turning away when you tried to kiss her the first time. You remember talking with Kate at the bar as she was getting ready to leave. You remember Kate leaving; you remember the girl staying. She has a name, at this point, but you’re telling a story in a specific way and it would be weird to just add it in there right now, so you don’t.
 

     You remember closing out your tab. Your friends had left at some point, and you don’t really remember much of that sequence. You remember sitting on the curb out front, insisting that the two of you climb into the open cockpit of the car parked in front of the club next door. You remember her lying her head on your lap as the Lyft drove you back to your place. You remember walking up the narrow driveway and opening the gate with the key code. 8490. It was the same code to get into the house. You’d only been living there for six days and it all still felt very new. You remember how new it all felt. Walking through the threshold and into the room, underneath the lofted bed, the studio ahead of you beyond the kitchen.
 

     You remember snippets of the rest of the night, all out of order. Her sitting in the weird tented deck area in front of your place, not realizing it was like two feet away from the main house. Climbing up to the loft bed. Watching her climb down to go to the bathroom, hours later, fully naked. Climbing down fully naked, yourself. Pressing your face between her legs. Her mouth on your body. The feel of her body in your hands.
 

     She asks you what your tattoo means like three times. She forgets your name like five times. She goes to pee again. Young Thug plays on a loop. She tells you she doesn’t sleep over guys’ places. She tells you she’s going to leave, and you tell her she can stay, she should stay. You immerse into the bed, the comforter draped over both of you as you cuddle up against each other like it's the most natural thing in the world, even though you were strangers just a few hours earlier. She eventually does decide to leave, and it's somewhere nearing 5am. You have to call her car because she can’t figure out why her phone isn’t working.
 

     She puts her number in your phone in lowercase letters and you’ve never changed it since. She’s cold, so you let her wear your favorite hoodie as you walk her out to the car. You’re in sweatpants and no shirt as you hug her in the driveway. You kiss her and stare into her eyes. She’s beautiful. She feels so right in your arms. You kiss her again as the car pulls up. She smiles as she slowly walks out into the street, and you turn and walk back toward the house with a huge grin on your face.

 

     She apparently spends a long time trying to remember your name so that the driver will actually take off and bring her home, but you don’t see any of this, because you are already back in your place. You climb back up into the loft bed and immediately replay the night in your head, falling asleep feeling better than you’ve felt in as long as you can remember. The sun is beginning to rise and even though the skylight is just a couple of feet from your eyes, you sleep peacefully, somewhere inside knowing that you and her just changed the course of your lives.
 

     You remember the little things, and you forget some, too. Or maybe you were never meant to remember them and the memory you do have of that night is the only one you need. You love that night, so much; it radiates inside of you and keeps you warm and intact, in ways that you didn't even know that you could feel. If this life were a simulation and you were afforded the chance to live it again and again and again, you'd do everything you could to ensure you experienced this night every time. It defines a part of you, and it's a part of you that you love. She's a part of you that you love.

     Sometimes, you do good and the good comes back to you. Sometimes timing is the only thing that matters. If you left after the Alabama game, or if she didn't power through her hangover and go to Fig for brunch, or if you didn't sign up to sing Under the Bridge and instead called it a night, or if, or if...

     The universe could have sent both of you in opposite directions, but it didn't. And if that means anything, it probably means everything.

 
 

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