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There is a house painted blue, the windows are always shut and the door rarely opens. When the boy goes out all he ever really does is check his mailbox. He walks towards it and pokes his hand inside, gets nothing, stares at space for a few seconds, and I swear, I can hear him sigh even if I am five houses away. I like this routine we have. Well, he doesn't know I'm watching him but it's familiar, this everyday certainty. And I like rooting for him, that one day he will finally get that letter he's waiting for.
In the morning that's what he does, he checks his mailbox. Then he goes out again in the afternoon to buy soda. On some days it's Coke, on some days it's Royal, on some days it's Mountain Dew. But on most days it's Coke. It's become a comfortable sight, him holding that red can, walking ever so slowly from the store to his door. I don't know how many hours I have in a day that I can afford to watch him like this. But I don't count and I don't care to count. I want to understand his sadness.
His name is Matt. I invented that. I don't really know his name. I want to ask. But wanting to do something is different from doing it. The same is true with ignoring something as compared to putting a spotlight on it and pointing out its worthlessness again and again. I say this last sentence because just this morning my sister...Ah, never mind. I am trying to be positive about a lot of things and deciding right on the cusp of a crying spell, that this, this will not matter in five years' time. So better just walk away.
So back to "Matt." He likes wearing plain white shirts. That alone makes him likeable in my book. Boys in white shirts. Sigh. I first saw Matt a year ago. Yes, I've been watching / stalking this boy for almost a year now. What caught my attention was the sadness. We were side by side at the store, he was buying Coke and I was, well, pretending to buy chips. His eyes looked tired and his hands were paint-splattered. He seemed not to care that he was disheveled. People who don't care--in general--are always interesting, I must say.
I dreamt of Matt one night. In the dream we were friends, and he was asking me, "Why tell people about your pain? Why share the most important things? Why tell people of your love? Why not just keep it to yourself?" I was beginning to answer him when he spoke again: "You know how people insist on wearing ill-fitting shoes?" "Yes, I think I do." "They care too much about the money they think was wasted, when what they should care about is right in front of them." "What's in front of them?" "Lots of walking to do."
The people who come to mind in the quiet moments, these are the people who matter the most. They are the ones you should stick with, because they are the ones who can calm you even without words or physical presence. This is Matt for me. We don't know each other and yet I feel like I can recite all his qualities (guess at them, really, and I would be right most of the time). Actually, okay, no. I'll be honest and say I have no clue whatsoever what Matt is to me. All I have are these arrogant assumptions.
If this were a movie I would've knocked on Matt's door by now and asked him his actual name. Maybe on the side I could tell him how I named him Matt all these months and we could laugh about how I have been stalking him and how I already memorize his routine. How at night the light in the room upstairs would turn on at exactly 8:30. How on some nights it would be on at 9. How I have plotted the patterns of that particular light. If this were a movie, Matt would not think I'm crazy.
You have to allow for things to happen, this is how you can live a life that's
free of regret. I want to tell Matt this. It's a Friday and today he's going to drive his green car. He'll leave at 6pm and be back by 8pm. He will have with him dry flowers and a sober face. He will park his car, walk forlornly towards his door, and close it behind him with the most heartbreaking gentleness I have ever witnessed. Lights will turn on one by one and I will watch his shadow move about.
During the times that I don't watch Matt, I work as a waitress. I work double shifts sometimes and hope every day that he will walk in the bistro and maybe I can introduce myself as his neighbor. I will open up with a really silly line about being so near and yet so far. Then I will proceed to cringe at my lame excuse of a conversation starter. But the reality is that Matt never goes into town. I say never with certainty because I have cameras installed on his person. Kidding. I'm not yet that kind of crazy.
If you let your fear decide for you, then congratulations, because you have just discovered the easiest way to fail at life. I'm trying to sound wise. I'm practicing to say out loud these intelligent sounding stuff so that if ever I get a chance to see Matt again at the store I will finally have the guts to approach him and spew out all these nonsense and maybe be spot-on with even just one topic. I don't know, paint? Guitars? The best brand of white T-shirts? Flower shops? It frustrates me how little I know of him.
This is how days are wasted: Take 24 hours and lay in bed weeping about the past, regretting what was already done and
deciding to move on. It's a conscious effort, yes, not deciding to be okay. It's also such a comfortable situation to be in, being sad. Some days I want to scold Matt for being so damn sad. I am judging him even if I don't know him yet. He will really be sad once he knows how I see him now. I am being presumptuous, believing that I matter enough that he will care.
Matt is such a welcome respite. Because he seems sadder than I am. His sadness communicates bottomless seas, mountaintops that reach past the clouds, vast, vast space of nothingness. It's an exaggerated sadness. And it looks like he loves it, thrives off it. You know how you look at a person and you feel a certain resignation? A particular kind of acceptance. Some sort of feeling that is neither positive nor negative. It's strong in its quietness. Matt seems to have this emotion figured out. It may sound strange, but he looks
sometimes with all that sadness.
The strange thing though, is that every Wednesday he drives off at random hours of the day. It's strange because I can't seem to establish a pattern for this behavior. Sometimes I get paranoid that he knows I'm watching him, and he does this Wednesday thing to confuse me. But that's being presumptuous again. I kind of like being invisible, unknown. It wouldn't hurt, of course, if we get to be friends someday but right now I like this anonymity. That when things get tiring I can walk out of his life without him knowing I was ever in it.
One day when Matt leaves or maybe suddenly disappears, I'm sure I'll miss him and...I'm daydreaming of an end to all this stalking. I'm kind of tired pining for a boy whose real name I don't even know. I don't even have the guts to ask. How humiliating would it be to answer the police (if ever Matt calls them and reports a stalker person) "I only watch him because he seems interesting I don't even know his real name I only know his routine." How humiliating it would be should not even be the least of my worries.
Today I decided not to part my curtain and look out the window to Matt's house. It's a radical move, not stalking Matt. It's a big move, very big. I was trying to convince myself about how big this move is when I suddenly get the urge to part my curtain and look out the window to Matt's house. Thank God my phone rang. I looked for it under the bed, in the closet, maybe in my bag? Yes, in the bag. I answer and it's my mother, reminding me to look out the window and admire this gorgeous day.
Matt has a beautiful smile. I saw him smile that day when he moved in, a year ago. That was the first time I saw him, that was the first time I saw someone as beautiful as Matt. Is it not obvious that this particular first time made such a mark? I don't know why he was smiling. I remember now, he was talking to the moving truck guy and they seemed to have arrived at a conclusion about something (basketball? his hideous grey sofa? his dirty white T-shirt?) I can't be sure. I kind of want to know.
He moved in on a morning. That afternoon was when we "bumped" into each other at the store. I ran, scampered out of my room to go downstairs when I spotted him coming out of his door. I ran. Determined to follow him wherever he might be going. I was so curious about this boy, on the first instance that I saw him. I think it was that smile, or that posture, or the way he touched his chin before he said something. Or maybe it was the way he looked relieved when the moving truck guys left him alone.
There are things we do that at the moment we were doing them we are already 100% sure that someday we will be ashamed of doing them, but we do them anyway. No other day but today. We waste all these chances, but we also sometimes grab at the wrong chances, and waste the extra time we could have spent with someone. A stupid decision, a wrong choice of word, a moment when we let fear take over. We try so hard to bring back time, and hope that regret would make us feel better. But it never really does.
Matt, in his being a distant--non-existent, really--entity in my life, has given me comfort. I know it speaks volumes when one gets comfort from something that is essentially not there. What of the actual people who actually love me? I hate that word, "actually." But I like using it! Same with "suddenly." Anyway. I like veering off-topic because I like denying things. Matt. I should let go of this infatuation because Matt seems to be okay where he is. He doesn't need the imaginary help of a stalker who's too afraid to ask for his name.
A friend once scolded me about my constant need to share what I feel. My constant need to talk it out, my constant need to have someone listen, my constant need to validate my existence by my perceived problems. She said I always feel there's something lacking if I don’t feed my pain, that if I allow myself to walk away from something bad I’m betraying myself or whatever it is I believe is being betrayed.
I feel bad for not feeling bad.
I asked her what I should do. She said, “Stop that constant need."
It's Thursday. I have to decide today to stop bugging Matt. I feel like even if he doesn't know of my existence, I am bugging him in some parallel universe, and that in his dreams he sees this shadowy creature lurking and...you know what? All I really want to say is even I am annoyed at myself for hiding, for doing this secret thing, when it should be easy to put myself out there and risk rejection. If I do then I will know for sure, right? I won't be wondering. It will be hard, yes, but worth it.
I've just spent the past three days staring into space. Deciding what I
feel once I get the letter I've been waiting for. Does that make sense? Deciding about something that's yet to happen, and concerning something abstract at that? There are three possibilities: 1) No letter would come 2) A letter would come with bad news 3) A letter would come with good news. I'm preparing to react for each possibility, but most seriously about the second possibility. I have got to get a life. Matt, hey, is the letter you've been waiting for there yet?
I need to tell you now that I'm not five houses away from Matt’s house. The truth is we live directly in front of each other. It’s a mystery how he still hasn't noticed my stalking after all these months. A few hours ago I saw him standing by his mailbox, holding an envelope. He was staring at it as if looking away would cause it to disappear. I don’t know why his concentration and the way he stood there looking at the letter broke my heart. The letter he has been waiting for, this was it.
I hear knocks. I head for the door, open it, and see Matt on my porch. Matt. “Hi, I’m Dave.”
He smiles at me and extends a hand, then, “I was wondering if you could lend me your garden hose?”
“Dave,” I managed to say.
“Yes, I’m Dave, what’s your name?” He has a dimple on his left cheek.
“Your name is Dave,” I say again, it was as if I was outside my body.
He smiles, asks, “What’s your name?”
“Hi, May.” His smile is destroying me. I can’t move.
That night I turned and turned in bed. I was excited for tomorrow, for when he returns my hose. But what if I don’t see him again? Why didn’t I say all I wanted to say when he was at my door this morning? Why didn’t I ask about the letter he got? One of our biggest mistakes is to believe there is enough time. I should have had the guts to ask him out! People change. Why didn’t I grab the chance hours ago? You could probably tell that morning came but sleep did not.
Hey, you looked so peaceful this morning, it makes me glad.
Hey, Dave? Imagine if we were given a one-hour heads up before the world ends. A man will head home to be with his wife and children, eat together one last time. A couple will embrace in bed, they will cry because of gratitude that they met in this lifetime. A woman will frantically dial an old lover's phone number.
It will be an hour filled with the cacophony of "I love yous."
It will be so beautiful.
I have spent a large part of my life taking action out of fear. It's not really called "brave" if I stand in front of the person I love and say "I love you, but I know you don't feel the same and I'm scared that you will turn away, but this is just to say, I love you." Why is the word "scared" there? There should be fewer words. Braver ones, too. Hey Matt, I'm knocking on your door tomorrow morning. "This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
"Do you like burritos?"
"I eat burritos, yeah, but I have the softest spot for fried chicken."
He likes fried chicken. I like fried chicken, too!
It's 7 in the morning and here I am at his door asking him about his favorite food.
"Would you like to go out with me tonight?" I say it too fast that I doubt he caught the words. I was prepared for a blank stare, nervous laughter, epic rejection.
"Yes, I would like that."
"Okay. See you." I walk away grinning.
My favorite thing is to wait. It's the anticipation that defines a moment, not the moment itself. Say, you want ice cream, but for some reason you are prohibited to procure it for 5 days. Those 5 days turn out to be so difficult but in hindsight they will also be replete with an inexplicable kind of hope, that which you think can power 10 helicopters during a blizzard. This is an exaggeration. This is how I feel now while waiting for Dave to pick me up. I can't wait anymore, but I also don't want the waiting to end.
I have a list of topics to bring up later at dinner, just in case we run out of stuff to talk about. I'm too pessimistic sometimes. Maybe I should just wing it. Maybe I should refrain from asking about the letter he got? But I really want to know about it. Maybe just focus on his childhood? What if it's a sore subject? Maybe it's best if I don't speak at all. Just eat. Just let him talk. I have so many questions that I'd like for this boy to answer. Deep breath. We have all night for that.
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