It is often when you feel like there is little left for you to find that you make your biggest discoveries. This is true in nearly every scenario you’ll find on the immense world wide web that we have available to search from, and this story will be a part of that search from the moment you read it. Which is right now. Because you’re reading it right now. Every word I write you’re reading. See, you’re still reading as I’m writing.
Sorry I got a bit carried away there. Anyway the fact that so many people give up when they think all is lost is the very reason why we shouldn’t give up. It can’t be so that when it all seems lost that it is, because there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. I believe Dory said it best when she exclaimed repeatedly, “Just keep swimming.” I know that BAS isn’t designed to be a love story, but every good book has a love story in it somewhere, even the tragic ones. And whether it be a tragedy or triumph to have arrived where I am, there is a love story to be told. And it begins with sadness, helplessness, and defeat. You’re gonna just have to go with me on this one, it does perk up eventually. Let’s just say that we are married 10 years as I’m writing this. And there has been more sadness, helplessness and defeat during those years too, but even at the end of the line, you have choices, and the choices are how the line begins again to be drawn.
I loved living on my own. Absolutely loved it. I wanted so desperately to escape living with my mother that I found my apartment while on vacation and signed papers via the internet, sight unseen. I got home from the airport, threw my stuff into bags, boxes and suitcases and started packing the car while my mom was still at work. I had no intention of leaving without saying goodbye, and honestly I was only moving to the other side of town, not across the country. I said I had no INTENTION of not saying goodbye. The fact was though that took way less time to pack than I’d expected, and I simply didn’t want to wait around.
I had my own place a grand total of 6 month’s when I met a girl. Well, I kind of met a girl. She was a new friend I’d come across on MySpace. She lived in the area, liked the same stuff as me and was a musician, which was very hot to the 19 year old artsy guy that I was. The dating sped along pretty quickly and soon I was moving my stuff into her place. It was bigger, had room for my office stuff so that I could write and had a recording studio instead of a garage. Awesome, right?
If I have any piece of advice to bestow upon you as the reader of this right now it is this, the edgy girl with the recording studio that seems so exciting that you can’t resist is EXACTLY the girl you should resist. At least if you’re intentions are to have stability. I felt pretty stable living there. I still had my apartment but since I never went home it didn’t make sense to keep it. So I didn’t. I contacted the office and had them draw up cancellation papers. She and I swung over and signed them before heading to a show she was performing at. I stared at her like I’d finally made it. It was perfect.
But while she was making a decent living as a recording artist (actually she earned money teaching guitar lessons, but “recording artist” sounds way cooler) I was making basically nothing as an author. I hadn’t come up with any tangible story to write about and my prose and poetry weren’t gonna generate anything financial. So I did what any self respecting, pizza loving, starving artist did, I delivered pizza. It came with the best list of benefits. A paycheck, and a free large pizza and garlic knots every night.
I quickly rose to become manager of the restaurant I delivered for, which had some even cooler benefits, like free wings and 2 liter sodas to go with the free pizza and knots and, the best benefit of all, working 50 hour weeks but being salaried so only getting paid for 40 of them. This also meant closing the store was often my job as the newest manager so I got home pretty late every night.
There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the night I’m about to talk about. I didn’t get home any later than usual. I didn’t leave for work any later than usual and I didn’t bring home any less food than usual. The only difference between this night and the dozens before it was when I got home, I was exhausted, covered in flour, and in no mood for sex. It was the first time in months that I didn’t want to come home and jump her bones. And it was the last thing she expected me to not want to do.
But I walked in the door, she grabbed me by the collar and pulled me towards the bedroom. We made it almost all the way there before I stopped her and said, sweetly, “ I just can’t tonight. I feel like garbage, I’ve got to work super early tomorrow and I really think I should just sleep. I’ll wake you up with some action before I leave though, I promise” Should be no problem right? I mean, who doesn’t want to get a surprise naughty wake up call from your partner. Sure beats the blaring alarm clock.
The next morning she was wide awake on the couch. I thought, cool we can have sex on the couch, but nope, she shut that right down. “ I think we need to see other people, this is just not working for me any more.” The words hung in the air like fog on a cold Seattle morning. I don’t remember what I said next because what she did as soon as I began talking was much more memorable. She left. Walked right out of the house and down the block, in her pajamas, which didn’t leave much to the imagination. I ran after her but she just kept walking and yelled, “be out before I get home tonight or I’m calling the cops.”
You didn’t think that the love story was with her did you? No no no, she was the beginning of rock bottom for this guy. I moved my stuff into my car, which took all day. Which meant I called out of work. Which meant I didn’t open the store like I was supposed to. Which meant I was fired. So in the span of a few hours, I’d lost my girl, my home, and my job. I drove faster than I legally should have right over to the apartment complex to have them undo the cancellation papers. I figured, since technically I signed them in the middle of a month, I should have till the end of the month to move out and so should have till the end of the month to cancel. Nope. It was done and I was homeless.
Remember at the beginning when I said I was desperate to move out of my mom’s place? It didn’t ruin our relationship but it did rub her the wrong way so it should come as no surprise that she decided to remodel my old room to fit her needs, AKA a home office and exercise room. Which was wonderful for her productivity in a number of areas of her life. And I was happy for her to have it. Until this moment when I suddenly had a need for a place to stay and was unable to land my own apartment again because every place I could afford was rented out and the places I couldn’t afford were rented out too. Even the places I could only dream of affording were all rented out. So I drove to my mom’s house and asked for a place to hang my hat.
That place was the back room and the hat wasn’t hung, it was laid down on the air mattress we inflated for me to sleep on. Home sweet embarrassing home. I was now the sucks-at-life guy who lives in his mom’s house again because he couldn’t get his life together after moving out. Yay me. And this is how it stayed for several months.
I kept my routine the same as before, only I’d found new places to work. I’d found a few jobs, and lost a few jobs. I had zero motivation to wake up in the morning, which meant zero motivation to go to work, or perform well at work. My mom thought I left for work and came home like normal, when really I was driving to the mall and parking under a really nice tree to go back to sleep. Life didn’t suck while I was asleep. It’s like going on adventures in your head. I spent so much time at the mall that I figured, maybe I’ll try to get a job there. And that plan worked out pretty well. I found a seasonal job at JCPenny in the housewares department. You heard correctly, the housewares department. I helped people pick out things for their homes. I hated every second of it. But it paid surprisingly well.
Other than work, I stayed home. I didn’t go see friends, I didn’t eat at restaurants, I didn’t do anything. I just sat home and hung my head low. I was convinced I failed at life at the ripe old age of 19 and a half. And that is why, on December 8th, 2006 my mother looked me square in the eye and said, “We are going to Target.” To which I replied, with the most perfect sarcasm ever performed “Have fun, see ya later.”
She insisted, I declined, she insisted again, I declined again, and after a few more rounds of the same, she added to her argument, “I’ll buy you anything in the store that doesn’t turn on or plug in.” Again with flawless sarcasm I replied, “If you’re going to pay me to spend time with you, I’m all in.”
So off to Target we went. We got a cart, I got a slushy, and we started to it. And while walking through the store, we kept hearing this annoying sound. A beeping noise. Again and again we heard it. It was so incessant that I had to find it. And when we did, I discovered that it was coming from an inventory gun being used by the absolute most perfect human ever to have walked the Earth. It was at this point that in any decent Hollywood movie a chorus of angels would begin singing and the suns rays would be overshadowed by a glow coming from behind her. She was everything. I had instantly forgotten about the girl who had destroyed my life not at all that long ago and suddenly there was nothing but this girl, dressed in a red polo shirt and khaki pants (like every other Target employee. Obviously she didn’t chose to dress this way. I mean really, red and khaki? Please tell me you knew it was a uniform. Please.) It was suddenly possible to be sexy in the least attractive uniform ever seen. Sure enough, I thought of a million things I wanted to do with her, many of which would be found in a rated G film (like going to movies and having dinner). If you remember though, I was a 19 year old boy so many of those things were not suitable for children.
I knew at once that I had to talk to her. I also knew just as quickly that I wasn’t going to. I had zero positive qualities to speak of. I lived with my mom, slept on an air mattress and sold towels and plates to people I secretly despised. I also was a budding novelist with a cheap looking business card that claimed I owned a publishing company. In truth, I had an LLC from the government, a company name, a logo and a dedicated phone line. It produced, however, a total of zero dollars a month. So I called it a publishing company, but really it was a pipe dream that I kept thinking I would eventually make something of. Clearly nothing worth boasting about to the girl of your dreams, so I kept walking. My mom however, saw the sparkle in my eyes when we found the source of the noise. After we had walked a bit, and I had found the coolest jacket ever, she turned to me and insisted that I speak to this dazzling mystery girl at once. But as I had nothing to speak about, she explained that I could ask the girl for help finding blue mascara, the gift she wanted from me for Christmas.
So reluctantly I walked over to the super model, trying to look nonchalant, and asked in my most confident voice, “Can you please help me find blue mascara?” And off we went to look. As she was showing me various shades of blue I began to realize what I’d done. I asked a beautiful girl, whom I wanted very badly to make a regular part of my life, for the rest of my life (yes I knew then how important she was going to be. Love at first sight does exist so don’t roll your eyes at me), to find me a makeup product in a shade that is primarily used by younger women, not middle-aged moms.
What had I done!!! So quickly I came up with a plan. I spat out the following: “My mom is going through a thing right now and wants to feel younger so she’s asking me for blue mascara for the holidays.” At least if she was going to think anything, she’d think I was sarcastic and a bit on the rude-to-my-mom side of things, but not, under any circumstances, would she think I was buying a gift for a girlfriend. She loosened up a bit and smiled as we finally settled on a color and we were even laughing a bit about it too. But then my rouse was finished. I’d found the thing I needed help with. So I scrambled for another plan. “Can I see a few watches out of the case over there? I collect watches and I’m looking for something new for when I meet clients.” I love watches and I had a company that theoretically saw clients so it was perfect, and it was also something that could take a long time to complete.
We looked at a few watches before my mom started walking past to give me signals that she was ready to leave. I was sweating under my shirt about as much as my slushy cup was on sweating the glass of the watch case. I took a shot in the dark and asked, “Did your boyfriend get you your watch?” I felt like such a dork asking such an obvious question but she answered sweetly, “Nope, I bought this for myself. No boyfriend.”
I’d struck gold. The woman of my dreams is currently not in anyone else’s dreams, but still I had no swagger, no confidence, no nerve to ask her out. What I did instead, was I offered her my business card, said that if she liked reading that I’d love for her to check out my stories and give me her opinion and then I left. I got to the check out line, shook my head in shame of my lame performance, and then suddenly, as if God himself had stuck a bicycle pump up my butt and pumped me full of confidence, I turned around, sarcastically told my mom to buy my jacket and wait in the car, and went back over to her. Thinking about it now I was walking a bit fast and it probably looked like I was going to run to the bathroom, not run to the hot girl I’d fallen for.
I asked if I could have her number, and she gave it to me. I walked out with my head held high for the first time in months and as we got back to the house, I put on my new jacket and went to the back room to check out the number. There were two big things that stuck out about the name Amber in my phone. First, there were two Amber’s and I didn’t know who the first one was. And second, the number she’d given me looked super fake. So got a bit annoyed and decided to call it. I was shaking like a cat in an ice bath while it rang. But when she answered it, I was so incredibly over the moon excited that I almost forgot to speak. She said hello a second time and I realized that it was either I talk or I hang up and never call her again. So I asked, “Is this Amber, from Target?”
“Yes? Who is this” She replied.
“It’s Adam, the guy with the mascara and watches. I know I just left, but I wanted to see if it was a real number, and I also wanted to see if you’d go out to dinner with me.” Confidence was actually flowing naturally out of me at this point, almost as if the rug of life hadn’t been jerked from under me not all that long ago.
She said “Yes.” and the following night, we met for dinner. I didn’t want to risk the affect of that heavenly bicycle pump wearing off so the date needed to be the next day or risk being deflated and not winning her over at all.
I got fajitas, she got fajitas, and the rest is history.
So to circle back around for just a second, the blackest night being right in front of your face does not mean you are about to become a vampire and never see the light again. It means that if you stop right now all you’ll ever see is night. If you press onward, eventually there is a sunrise and the day begins anew, budding with opportunities to make something different happen than what did the day before. It is a chance to rewrite your next few pages to not be filled with trite, depressing sadness and instead filled with, well, anything other than trite depressing sadness. Make the day your own. Make your next few steps take you in a new direction. Be a different version of yourself. But whatever you do, don’t, and I mean don’t, quit looking. If it feels like there is nothing left to find, just whisper, “I’m about to discover something amazing”