Soundtrack Song - Acceptance, So Contagious
What attracts one person to another?
The question's been playing over in my mind repeatedly since Friday night. I don't have a type; I love all women. I don't prefer a body type or a hair color. Women are beautiful creatures, each and every one of them.
It's only happened to me once or twice before, but sometimes I see a girl, and just by sight there's something about her that takes my breath away. That makes me feel like I've been sucker-punched. Like my heart fell through my feet. As soon as my eyes landed on them, it was like the world stopped. All you can do is stare, mouth agape and stupid.
Those types of girls knock you flat on your ass. They know they're the shit and use it to their advantage. And once you get past the overwhelming shock of that meeting, there's not much to keep you there. It's like that initial pull is a survival mechanism to pull guys in, because once you get to know them, there's nothing beyond that façade to make you wanna stay.
But what is it about one girl that makes her stick out more than the others? It's obviously something physical. The only other thing I can think of is attitude. Those girls know they're hot. It permeates their core and emanates outward.
Attitude. Gym Girl's got that in spades. I guess that's it, that's why I can't get her out of my head. I don't have any other explanation. Is she beautiful? All women are. Is there something special about her, that makes her stand out more than others? Maybe. I don't know what that is. I don't know her. And that's just it. I don't have a fucking clue what her deal is, who she is, even her name, but she's in my head like a chip implant, ingrained so deep I can't get her out.
I feel like that guy in Hitch... Vance? The one who says, "Have you ever met someone, and you knew right away she was going to be important to you. Not because of the way she looks, but because of that x-factor? ...I don't know what it is about her. I just can't get her out of my mind. You know, food has lost its taste. Colors, you know, they seem dull. Things that used to matter, I don't know, they just no longer do."
If I sleep with her, will it clear my head? Will it let me forget about her?
Do I want that?
I'm a hard worker. That's how I made it as far as I have in life. And maybe that's the thing that fascinated me, is the fact that this isn't easy. She's not easy. The next time I see her, whenever or wherever that may be.... She's not getting away again. She may turn out to be one of those girls that grabs your attention only to fade away into the background, but until I find out if that's the case, she's going to consume my thoughts.
When I woke up this morning, after eight, I knew where I should have been. I should have been at UPMC Southside, doing the physical testing with the rest of the guys. It's official; the 2009-2010 hockey season has started. Without me.
I need a distraction, desperately, to get my mind away from the ice. I found one in Gym Girl, but the fact that she's somewhere out in this city, unbeknownst to me, doesn't lessen any of the pent-up frustration coursing through my bloodstream. If I were healthy, I'd skate it out. I don't have that option now. So what the fuck am I going to do?
I figure I'll go for a walk.
Quite possibly the worst part of my job is the regular schedule. Up at 6:30 every weekday morning, and up early even on the weekends. It's only a little after eight, and I'm wide awake. No chance of going back to sleep. So I might as well start my day.
As I pad around the quiet apartment, the too quiet apartment, I wonder where Gina is. She's not one to stay out all night. As I raid the fridge and cabinets for something, anything remotely appetizing that won't go straight to my still-fat ass, I hear the keys jingle in the lock.
"Late night?" I mumble as my stomach growls, desperate for something to eat for breakfast. I hardly ate yesterday.
"What are you doing up so early?" she asks.
"What are you doing up so late?" I mock back to her, but it's all good-natured fun. I'm jealous of her lifestyle. With one semester left of classes, she plays at open mic nights and has some gigs with her band. She's always out and about, and plus she's hot and guys are always all over her. I envy her, and she knows it.
"Kevin showed up last night, and he invited me over to his place after I played. I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition when I got home."
I shrug. "You know I have to live vicariously through you."
"If you would just come out with us once in a while, you wouldn't have to siphon off me. You could have your own life. Doesn't that sound good?"
"Sounds good, but it's highly improbable."
"Charlotte, dear, you know I love you to pieces. You're my oldest friend. But you're miserable, and it's making me miserable, too. John was an ass. You know that. And it's been months. Don't you think it's time to... move on?"
"Don't you think it's too damn early to talk to me that way?"
"No. No time of day is good to get through your thick skull. I get it, you loved him. But he obviously didn't love you back. That's why you moved out here, to put him behind you. When are you finally going to start living your life again?"
Gina's blunt; that's just the kind of person she is. I know that about her, and I love that about her. But it doesn't mean that I can always tolerate it. Deep inside, I know he never loved me. Things wouldn't have ended up this way if he had. But to hear her say it is painful. I dig my nails into the flesh of my palms to prevent the waterworks. Every time we have this conversation, this discussion, it always ends the same. She's yelling and I'm crying. Not this time.
Before she can lecture me some more, I tear off my sweats and dress in jeans and a shirt. I don't have food in the house and I'm starving. Looks like I'm going out for breakfast.
"Halloween," Gina says as I'm heading out the door. She confuses me, and I look back at her. "I know you think I'm pushing you, and you're sick of it. But you can't keep doing this. We've got a gig on Halloween in Oakland, and you should come out with us. And I don't mean hide in the corner and mope around. I mean come out with us and party and laugh and be you again. It's still a month and a half away. So what do you say?"
Just like last night, I know the answer's no. I don't want to go out with them, especially to a college party. But it dawns on me that John and I, whatever we had, was over in May. It's already September, and Gina's talking about October. I'm avoiding plans so far in advance because of a relationship that ended months ago. That's so pathetic. I'm pathetic.
"Okay. I will." I don't know how long it's supposed to take to get over him. But I know how long I'm allowing myself—I'm effectively giving myself a deadline.
Gina's more than satisfied with my answer, and even though I'm quite proud of myself for taking the initiative to move on with my life, I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I've got about six weeks to have an existential breakthrough, and I have no clue about how I'm supposed to manifest that.
Pittsburgh doesn't have a lot to offer like Chicago does. There's a Starbucks on one end of the main drag on the Southside and there's a Caribou Coffee on the other, with a café or two sprinkled in between. I go for mainstream and head to Caribou, pretty much just because I'm in love with their French toast muffins and how good they are with a Northern Lite Turtle Latte. The place is packed, like it would be on a typical Saturday morning. I groan as I stand in the back of the line, wondering how long the wait's going to be.
My empty stomach gurgles in response to the enticing aromas in the air. I grab my sides and try to muffle the embarrassing sound. The girl in front of me in line turns around and laughs with me. Even though I haven't had my coffee yet, I do my best to be nice. "I think there's some mathematical formula for figuring out how long the line's going to be depending on hungry I am," I joke.
She smiles, looks behind me, and then turns back around. Why do I bother trying to be nice? Besides, I'm not here to make friends, so I really should just keep to myself. The guy behind me, though, is friendlier. "At this rate, you could probably grow your own beans, roast them, and make your own pot of coffee."
"Probably," I say with a smile, turning around. At least someone's being nice this early in the morning. It figures it's him.
"Gym Girl," he smiles back. "Now this is just getting weird."
"Crippled Guy," I mumble. It takes me a couple seconds to process that it is indeed him, because although he's dressed in what I'm assuming is his usual fashion, he's wearing wire-framed glasses. He looks different but just as equally delicious as he did yesterday. Looking at him makes me feel shy and timid, like I don't even belong to stand in the same coffee shop as him. He flashes that smile and my heart somersaults.
"It's Max. If we're going to keep running into each other like this, you should at least know my name." Max.... It suits him. He looks at me expectantly. He wants to know my name, too. I bite my lip as I think about it. I think about the grief he caused me yesterday, but right now he seems to be calm. It must be because he hasn't had any coffee yet. Max seems harmless. What could it hurt?
"Charlotte," I tell him.
"Charlotte," he repeats, and it sounds so good in his mild French accent. As my name leaves his lips, he smiles. We're silent as we wait in line, creeping toward the counter to place our orders. Maybe it's because it's still early or because we're impatient to be served. Finally, the frazzled barista hands me my muffin as someone else gets to work on my latte.
We both grab our to-go cups and head for the door, still not speaking. I sigh silently, thinking that I finally made the attempt to make friends in my new town, and that didn't work out. Until he talks again, "Do you wanna grab a seat?"
I look around at the outside tables, which are occupied already. "Guess not," I dismiss.
"There are some benches over this way," he suggests, pointing down the street to the plaza by the theater. Again, I contemplate his words. What do I have waiting for me at home? Nosy Gina and an unopened e-mail from John. At this rate, what do I have to lose?
"All right. Lead the way."