Could not stop thinking about writing while sitting on my front porch last night waiting for my friend to come pick me up to get gelato. My friend group puts together last-minute plans constantly and more often than not they involve food, coffee of some kind, motion pictures, and a movie.
All day yesterday it was supposed to rain and you could tell if you looked outside that the clouds were getting ready for something big. The rain held off until the night, but thunder and lightning was crashing round me on my front stoop and in the car on the way out to our friend's house.
There's something fantastic about Wisconsin storms that I haven't experienced anywhere else. Everything about them reminds me of my childhood, the good parts I mean. When I sit outside and reach out my hand and can grab the moisture out of the air, a rush runs through my body. It's this knowledge that the yellowish-gray sky that's hanging so low will rip open and pour on you at any moment. The rustling of the leaves on the tall trees, first couple droplets of water hitting me smack dab in the eye, that initial flash of lightning that makes me jump a bit and the crack of thunder that rumbles all the way into my chest...there's nothing better.
It scares me and thrills me, as so much I do does: climbing trees, writing, traveling with a backpack and a few euros, living in a different country for five months, driving in the snow and ice, sitting on my roof on summer nights, falling in love, writing papers hours before the deadline.
Which brings me to the second part of this post: memories. I'm not talking about my flashbacks, but memories instead. I did have a flashback recently on the metro in Vienna about Alexia*, but I haven't mentioned it yet because it's significance still puzzles me. It wasn't a negative or confusing one, but clear and simple, just a random spring or summer day sitting in her room watching her play video games.
I can tell a flashback though from a random memory, because they're always caused by triggers and this one was an apple juice box which I stupidly got at the train station. My hands tremble, I feel a cold sweat cover me from head to toe, and I'm overcome with the immediate need to flee. Everything is so fresh and real from the smells to the feeling of the comforter to the noises on the TV.
Regardless, I did have some memories the other day while looking through old pictures my sister and I found in our basement. I thought I had thrown away all photos of Alexia years ago, but it seems I missed four.
The first two I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember the feeling of the fabric zipper pull and the annoying tight cuffs of the windbreaker. I remember that it was a happy day and we both were laughing and smiling (genuine ones too).
The third I remember there were many more from that day that are now gone, but that day I remember vividly. We were hanging out at the playground and my hair was dirty, so I had on a baseball cap (backwards of course, because I was awesome like that), but it was rainy/icky outside so it didn't really matter. She had invited me over at the last minute I remember and we were discussing something serious. What it was I could not tell you, but I can see myself sitting on top of part of the jungle gym and staring out down the street toward a nearby church. The park was only two blocks from Alexia's house, but we needed to get away to talk about whatever was bothering her at the moment. It was one of the few moments she opened up to me; of everyone in our odd clique/friend group, I was one of two which she let her guard down around. Granted, this was not usually a positive experience, but it was these moments that kept me coming back to Alexia because I could see the person she wanted to be but couldn't for some reason (doctors I've had think possibly a personality disorder mixed with things I can only speculate but for which I have no proof or verification). I believed in her and wanted to be best friends with that girl, the girl underneath the tough exterior and years of an...odd relationship with her father and sickly mother. I waited ten years for glimpses of that smile I loved, kind of like an abusive relationship when the girl may wait around for flashes of the man with which she first fell in love. It's a futile waiting game, but seeing that picture of both of us sticking out our tongues to her mom's camera when she came to get us for dinner reminds me of how conflicted I felt.
The fourth I can date to April 6, 2001 which was the day that Miller Park re-opened. I remember going to the re-opening with Alexia and her dad, taking pictures with baseball players I barely knew, and trying to wrap her Brewers monkey around both of our necks without having some awkward three-legged race but with out heads. That was three years before we stopped being friends, almost exactly actually. Alexia and I had had a double-sleepover that weekend and it was draining me off all my resolve. I felt trapped in that giant stadium and by her dad who always made me feel uncomfortable. He would ever so sweetly suggest to my mother that I stay over just one more night and how could I protest in front of him that I wanted out? Each night he would spoil us with candy and other goodies to keep us happy, but I wore an empty smile on my face. That re-opening ceremony was yet another example of being suffocated and, being only ten years old, having no idea how I could get away. This picture hurts deep in my heart because I remember feeling overwhelmingly guilty, scared, and lonely.
Finding old concrete evidence of my pain makes me sigh in relief; it's confirmation that I'm not insane or making everything up. Even if it's only to convince myself, those pictures give me some peace of mind that those ten years were a reality.