Lauren, Lauren, Lauren, Lauren, Lauren!
I feel like everyone has at least one story they’ve never told. Maybe they’re just unsure how to tell it. The impact of it so big it’s hard to put into words. Maybe they’re ashamed of it. Maybe they just think no one could possibly ever relate to it or understand it. Or, maybe it’s been so long since the story took place they just don’t see the point of telling it now. So, they keep those stories to themselves. They keep everyone else in the dark as to it’s relevance to who they are or how they live their lives. They rob the world of hearing that story. This was that story for me.
I’ve struggled at times honestly just giving myself permission to say her name out loud. Not because I’m ashamed to somehow, but because I’m uncertain how others will interpret what her name means to me. I want to say it. I want to share the story of her, but I’m afraid by doing so that others may implicate things for themselves that are untrue. Mostly, I’m afraid that by explaining what she meant to me and how much I loved her, there will be certain people in my life who will feel that they meant less or that I loved them less. Or, that there could be a future someone out there that would view my feelings for her as a hinderance towards developing something similar or more powerful with them. That’s not true. Relationships are just different, and the difference with her was that she made me feel love; whereas, now I can create it. The truth is, without her I wouldn’t have been able to love anyone now. Not even myself.
So, there could only be one name for this post. It had to be her name – Lauren. That name says all the things I will surely struggle to explain in the following paragraphs. But, I want the world to know that name. I want the world to know what she meant to me, and how she lives on in my love for others. I don’t want to be afraid to share that beauty anymore.
To start her story, the story I’ve never completely told anyone before now, I’ll begin by sharing a chapter about her from an unfinished book I’ve been writing. A book similar in thought to the subtitle of this blog. This chapter from the book chronicles the beginning of our relationship, and; likewise, the beginning of myself in many ways.
Chapter – Awakening
It was her. What? Did you expect some story about a man pulling his head out of his ass not to include a woman? Those stories are called fiction my friend. Actually, I could probably end this chapter right here and there and some of you would have all the information you’d need to know to understand the rest. At the very least, I’m sure I just gave some of you enough to nod your head and utter an agreeing “Mmmhmm”. But, curiosity gets the best of us all, so I suppose I’ll divulge a little bit more. That, and I really just want to tell you about her.
Before I begin telling you about her, though, I’ve realized in telling bits of this story recently – the story about her – that most people I know have no idea the significance of her in my life. Or, have never even known anything about her. I want that to change. Even before this book is published that should change. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for her. For that moment with her.
Before this book, I got asked by a lot of people when telling my story as to how I got to the place I am today. What was it that caused me to change? Or, what was it that caused me to see and do things differently? And I always tell them it wasn’t one thing, it was a million different things. But, I suppose in a way there was one thing that started it all: her. Had I of never met her, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. A place where I am connected to my full self and the whole world. A place full of love and limitless possibilities. Course, then again, I guess you could say if it hadn’t of been her maybe there would have been something or someone else that would have sparked it all instead and started my awakening. Maybe it would’ve just happened later or taken a little bit longer. Who knows? Maybe we’re always headed to where we end up. But, then again, that story too may have never been told. So, this is the story you get.
When we first met she was our (my party buddies’ and mine) waitress at a wing place. I know, how romantic. Apologies if you were expecting something a bit more fairy taleish to start out. But hang in there, it gets good eventually. It was at least a nice, independent, and family friendly wing place though. Anyways, we had decided to go there to either recover from a hangover from the night before, begin the process of having another, or maybe a little bit of both. In other words, it’s safe to say I wasn’t at that restaurant that day scribbling anything world changing onto my napkin, or thinking about the meaning of life, or having any deep conversations (much less thinking about meeting someone who I would later fail to put into words).
I was probably about 22 or 23 at the time and in between undergrad and grad school. I know this, because I was actually there just because I had come back to finalize things for grad school, and was catching up with old friends while in town.
As far as what that first encounter and conversation with her was like that day, I honestly couldn’t tell you much. There are a lot of things that are a little unclear from that time period in my life to say the least. I do know I did talk to her though. I know that simply because that was always the good thing about being young, dumb, and full of; well, you know. In that, I never really had a problem talking to women. In fact, I think a lot of guys around that age who are unknowingly lost find it rather easy to be good with women. We honestly don’t care or think about much, which makes it very easy to appear to be comfortable in your own skin. Or, I suppose dementedly attractive to those who prefer meatheads. Then again, maybe women just don’t have a clue at that age either, so who knows. Needless to say, I’m sure when we met I was talking all sorts of bullshit, and we were having the most intelligent conversation ever. I can only imagine how cliche it all looked.
As a matter of fact, everything was so superficial in that first meeting, or I was so busy trying to ‘represent’ for my boys, that I didn’t even really notice anything special (any of the life changing bits) about her that day. The bits that I would later fall in love with. The bits that would change my world. I honestly wouldn’t have even been too disappointed if we hadn’t talked again. Makes me wonder what things we really do miss out on in life just by not paying a little bit more attention, or by giving a little more effort. Anyways, I’m just reiterating the fact that this wasn’t a fairy tale first meeting that’s all. It was just somewhat typical for me at that time in my life. She had my number afterwards, and I had hers. Maybe fate knew all the rest, but he/she/it had failed to let me in on the secret up until that point.
Obviously, there was a second meeting or I wouldn’t be babbling on to you right now. Again, I’m not really sure what led up to it exactly, but I do know the remnants of it are tattooed on my heart. Maybe there were and maybe there weren’t some phone conversations beforehand. I dunno. If so, I was probably continuing to spew out all sorts of animal manure, so I doubt there’d be much to report on. You can safely assume that I more than likely didn’t give the conversations a whole lot of thought either way. She was an unknown quantity at that point; and as such, I was probably just as excited to have her come hangout as I would be with any other new person. I know, I know, how romantic. Casanova I was not.
Anywho, the only details I remember about that second meeting are that I invited her to come hang out with me and my friends at this infamous lake campground. A campground that was a prototypical redneck yacht club, and that was owned by one of my friend’s families.
It was a place that we used many a night in those days as our pre game and post game headquarters. Or, as was the case this night, party headquarters. It was also a good place for such ‘meetings’ to take place, because I knew by inviting her, or anyone, to come there it was a sure fire way to see if they were capable of ‘hanging’ right off the bat. More than likely, though, I wasn’t thinking too much about even that that night. I was probably just thinking about partying and other things (regrettable winky face). However, if she could overcome a night, or even a few hours, with us in probably one of the most redneck places I knew (and I mean that in the best and worst kind of ways), then she was probably a-ok.
I can only assume her agreeance upon attending that night must have been a spur of the moment decision, or one that required persuading on my part, because I remember that she came with her brother and her best friend. I say this as a point of fact because even though another female was always welcome at the campground, there was no way in hell I would’ve thrown a brother in the mix if I could possibly avoid it at all to start out. I’ll just say what we’re all thinking: major cock block. That being said, I actually do like her brother now. I’m just saying though, yah know?
Anyways, they came over to my buddy’s trailer at the campground (you should’ve guessed the trailer part) and we all just hung out for a while drinking and bullshitting like always. I say (I say “I say” a lot) like always, because I still can’t remember anything distinctive up until that point of the night, so I’m just assuming it was the norm. Her friend though I think may have gotten a pretend marriage proposal for dipping with one of my buddies, but I don’t recall anything else besides that. There were probably drinking games, I was probably trying to get on her brother’s good side, some brief background information may have been exchanged, yada yada. I think you get the picture.
I suppose at some point then I had decided she had been there long enough to pass the test, and I wanted to have some alone time with her. Time away from her brother so I could find out more about her. Ok, that’s probably bullshit. I just wanted some alone time with her. Don’t judge. So, somehow a diversion was created and we went back to one of the rooms where I can only hope my intentions were honest. Regardless of intentions, though, in that room my life changed forever. Drop your dirty conclusions there please.
Like I said before, nothing up until that point had been totally note-worthy or unique in our encounters. But, while we were in that room and were talking, me probably a bunch of insubstantial nonsense and her maybe somewhat serious stuff, something happened. This next part is what’s really hard to describe. Some things in life are just like that. Even the people living in these moments can’t fully understand them.
I don’t know if it was just something she said, or the way she said it, or maybe it was that I could actually hear her and feel her – the embodiment of who she was – in what she said, but something she said within that conversation immediately caused my world to stop. I mean stop completely. There was a world before that moment, and a world after. Whatever I was about to say vanquished from my mind, all the noise in my head, all the angles I was probably trying to set up, any normal thought I might have possibly had ceased to exist. I was speechless, thoughtless, and flabbergasted. Whatever she had said, whatever she had done, had stopped my normal existence dead in it’s tracks and awakened something deep within me.
That something felt like my soul breathing fresh air for the first time after being held under water for so long. Something that screamed. “Yes! Fucking Yes! This is it! That is it! Something about this is it!” Whatever she had done or said in that moment had allowed the real me inside to finally connect to something real on the outside (her) and say, “This. This is what’s important. This is how you should feel. Everything else has kept you from this.” And, I was completely unaware until that moment that there even existed a real me outside of that previous, normal existence to connect to.
I remember in that moment, and I don’t know if she noticed, but I remember just stopping and looking at her with my head kinda sideways and my eyes somewhat squinty as if to say, “Who are you, where did you come from, and what have you done to me?” But I didn’t say any of those things. I can barely wrap my head around it now, so I certainly couldn’t wrap my head around it enough then to formulate a sentence. I just did the next best thing. I grabbed her, and I picked her up, and I kissed her. It was the only thing to do. She was inevitably something my soul had been searching for and yearning for my whole life, and I didn’t even know it until I knew it.
Fortunately, there had been a stool or box or something (probably a case of beer) nearby for me to put her up on to make the moment last even longer. When I finally let go of her and stepped away, still speechless, she was the one that spoke. She asked me, “How did I get up here?”. Because evidently she hated being picked up. I guess perhaps we both lost our minds a little that night.
It’s hard to imagine that I had lived 20 some odd years up until that point without ever experiencing anything like that. Anything that was real in my life. But it’s true. That’s what that moment was. It was a glimpse into what real feels like when everything else shuts up. And what’s crazy is she showed me that without really doing anything. There was no build up, no nothing. She brought what was real out of me because that was just who she was – real. I can’t begin to explain; obviously, what it’s like to have everything you know be shattered all at once, and be looking at that beautifully innocent thing that did it to you all at the same time. Knowing that she is the only thing in your world now that you know is really real and your soul just screams for more.
Reflecting back upon that moment and my life before then, before her, I feel like my life was like being Jim Carrey on the Truman Show. I was not free, but I was also unaware of my imprisonment. Most everything about my life was fake. It had been scripted characteristically Americana to the T. I was not original or unique or authentic. I was purely a manifestation of everything I had absorbed from the mainstream, and she was the first person, the first voice, to make me see or feel anything outside of that tiny world.
After that night, for the first time in my life, I was able to step outside of my little petri dish and see everything from afar. How I had been altered by my environment and upbringing, how I had been closed off to things outside of my little world, how I had become something I didn’t even really connect to. I realized all these things simply because of a feeling. A moment. A person. Something you can’t possibly put into words or point out factually, but that my soul immediately recognized as the ultimate truth.
People talk all the time about thinking or doing things outside the box, but that’s really hard to do when you’re in it. For some reason she was the first person, the first thing, that allowed me to do so; simply by being who she was. I have no fucking idea how it happened, but I’m glad it did.
What’s funny is that when looking through photos of her recently I remembered (from the name on one) that her nickname was ‘Bird’. I’m not necessarily sure why, but she was definitely as free as one and you felt that anytime you were around her. I sure do miss that feeling.
Soon after that moment, I also realized in her that I had discovered what most people spend their whole lives looking for. Fuck the fountain of youth. This was, as Billy Crystal’s character in The Princess Bride says, “Wuv, true wuv.”
She had given me something I never even knew I needed. Thank you Lauren.
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