My Story in Song: Part 9
“We’re closing up the lot. You kids have to head home.”
New Kid and I quickly hop out of the hatchback’s open trunk, apologizing to the police officer all the while. We’d been tailgating, wanting to watch the Canada Day fireworks, but unwilling to pay the sizeable cost of admission to do so from within the confines of Canada’s Wonderland. Our solution was to head to the mall across the street and wait for the show to begin.
Of course, many families had arrived at the same conclusion, so we had planned to wait for the sea of vehicles to thin out before heading home. But it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.
“Music?” I ask as we sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
I select Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow, partly because I know that New Kid’s a fan of his, but also partly because it’s a melancholy kind of night, and we could use a lighter sentiment to lift us up.
Things hadn’t started out that way. Everything was business as usual when we’d left for our spot earlier in the evening.
Well, everything other than New Kid’s outfit, that is.
The man was sporting a collared polo today. Nothing too fancy, but a definite upgrade from his usual T-shirts. Even more suspicious was the fact that he’d actually taken the time to shave – something I’d never before witnessed in our time together.
But the strangest thing of all was that he’d left a goatee. A very faint, need-to-squint-really-hard-in-order-to-see-it goatee, but a goatee nonetheless. I’m not entirely sure what’s gotten into New Kid today, but I can’t help but be suspicious – especially when the only other man with a goatee in these parts is my ex-boyfriend.
BUT, despite all this, the now-fully-rested New Kid appears to be keeping things firmly in the friend zone, so I choose to dismiss his new look as… as…
Well, I’m not sure as what, exactly, but dismiss it, I shall.
On we drive until we reach the spot, where we climb onto the car and shoot the breeze, gazing out at a landscape that seems to change with each successive visit. In time, our bodies tire of sitting on hard metal, so we stand to stretch our legs.
We turn around and spy a man getting out of a white SUV. A woman, presumably his wife, is sitting in the passenger seat, watching our exchange through the window.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” the man goes on, talking with the kind of agitation that comes from a chronic overabundance of energy. “But I’ve just never seen people standing on a car before! Here, give me your phone – let me take a picture!”
The man’s restless energy proves contagious, and New Kid obliges, bending down to hand the man his phone. We stand close as he snaps a couple of pictures, then thank him as he draws closer to return the device.
And that’s when it happens.
“Are you two married?”
I burst out laughing and deny his claim, and the man’s eyes widen, his features contorting until they clearly read, ‘Oops!’ He beats a hasty retreat, embarrassed by his gaffe, and we wave as he drives away.
“That was nice,” I smile.
New Kid agrees, but it’s only then that I notice he’s been quiet ever since the man’s innocent question.
Oh, no. Not again…
Memories of the fallout after our rock-climbing day bubble up and my smile wanes.
I could tell this was going to be a problem.
Sure enough, once we’re back on the road, New Kid launches into a winding monologue – one that lasts all the way to the parking lot, with a Tim Horton’s pit stop on the way – laying out the all reasons why we can never be more than friends.
I know, I assure him, this isn’t news. And it’s fine.
The last time this came up, New Kid took comfort in such words. Today, he just falls silent, worry drawing a line between his eyebrows as his thoughts churned like clothes in a laundry machine.
I wasn’t entirely sure of what the big deal was. He’d chosen to walk a certain path, and it appeared that he was sticking to it.
So why did he seem so upset?
A cloud seems to settle over the rest of the night from then on. New Kid smiles at the fireworks – and probably also my childlike exuberance at seeing the colourful explosions – but he’s distant, lost somewhere in melancholy thought.
Once the show is over, as we watch the cars filing out of the lot one by one, New Kid begins to ask me questions. I notice they grow deeper and more personal as time goes on, but I answer them honestly. I trust him, so it doesn’t seem strange to bare my soul in such a way. We talk about panic and courage, anxiety and faith, depression and hope. And… my ex.
By the time New Kid pulls his car over at the end of my driveway, he asks one final question.
“Why did you stay?”
“I didn’t think anybody else would want me,” I hear myself saying. “Growing up, with all of this…” I jerk a thumb in the direction of my house and list some examples, the words brief but loaded with the kind of hurt that drags hot tears to the corners of my eyes as it passes through me. Finally, the truth comes out.
“I didn’t think I was lovable.”
The silence that follows my confession swells and fills the car, and I feel those tears threatening to spill over at any moment. In an act of pure self-preservation, I offer a quiet apology and reach for the door handle.
“You’ve got it.”
His words, spoken just above a whisper, stop my hand mid-pull. I turn my head to face him.
“Lovability,” he states simply, meeting my gaze with shadowed eyes. “You’ve got it.”
I try my best to keep it together, but despite my efforts, a rogue tear escapes and tumbles down my cheek.
New Kid nods, his lips pressed together in a tight line. He means what he says, that much is obvious. But he seems… sad. After a moment, he averts his gaze and opens his door.
“Let me give you a hug.”
I step out of the car and take advantage of the brief moment of separation to swipe at my eyes, attempting to rid them of excess moisture. In a few long strides, New Kid circles the vehicle. Once he’s beside me, I allow him to take me into his arms, but I steel myself, testing things.
Friendship. Nothing more.
Finally, I let myself relax, taking a deep breath against his chest. I only whisper two words, but I mean them with all of my heart.
Listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow here