“I’m going to go sit on the decking and write in my journal, you should come out” Blonde called as she descended the stairs. “Cool” I responded, grabbing my computer and sunglasses to follow her. I only made it as far as the living room, where I found Alaska spread out on the couch “tired?” I asked, propping my belongings on the floor and climbing over his legs to sit in the corner on the chair.
“Yeah, lot of driving recently” he admitted wearily. “Sure you don’t mind us staying a few more days, since we’ve missed our flight and don’t really have a choice?” I questioned, “actually, yeah, can you leave” he smiled, “course, can you give us a lift to Geo’s? I’m sure his family will take us in, plus provide cookies and warm blankets! What have you ever done for us?” I played along. “Oh I don’t know, take you camping” he fought back, “where I almost froze to death” I interjected, “drive you on a 12 hour round trip to a national park” he offered “and leave us stranded, forced to hitch-hike and almost getting arrested” I interrupted. “Hey! You liked the ride with the state trooper!” he pointed his finger at me to make his point. “All I’m saying is we don’t get any cookies here. A few cookies might be nice is all!” I smiled.
“What are you guys talking about?” Blonde asked, appearing at the door leading onto the decking. “Cookies” I answered, she placed her book on the floor and sat opposite us with crossed legs “I’d like a cookie”. “See!” I turned to Alaska, satisfied my point had been made.
“I don’t know, after a few months they just leave” Alaska explained. “But why? What happened with the last one?” Blonde asked. Conversation had fallen onto relationships, Alaska was in the process of explaining why his only lasted a few months. “Ok, well, she was weird, she turned around and she broke up with me because she said that I was too eloquent” he laughed “I guess I made her feel inferior because I used too big of words” he laughed again.
I was confused “no wait, you don’t talk like you’ve swallowed a dictionary, that doesn’t make sense, what did she actually say?”. “She said I was too eloquent!” he looked annoyed, I asked again “no I want to hear exactly what she said, word for word”. He huffed “I don’t know! She said I made her feel bad about the way she felt and the way she felt was that she didn’t want to be in a relationship and I asked her why she didn’t want to be in a relationship, which was because I made her feel bad about the way she felt but the way she felt was that she didn’t want to be in a relationship” he spun his fingers in the air, drawing a circle “see the bullshit? Fucking cyclical logic and she ended the conversation by saying I was too eloquent?” he finished, sitting straighter, the line between his eye brows creased. Blonde and I paused for a second before saying in unison “that’s not what she was saying!”
“Do you get it?” I turned to Blonde laughing that we both heard the same thing, “yes! That’s not what she was saying!” she smiled back. “What? What are you talking about?” Alaska asked, frustration growing in his eyes. “That’s not what she was saying, you weren’t listening” I answered.
Alaska became defensive, pulling his legs up to his chest, annoyance bristling through the frowns of his forehead “well tell me then!” he snapped. “Well repeat the last thing you just said” Blonde stated, “that I was too eloquent?” he asked, “no not that” said Blonde. “What the cyclical bullshit?” he tried, we laughed “no, the last bit”. He lashed out, throwing an arm in Blonde’s direction aggressively “well don’t dangle the fucking carrot, you’re both just laughing at me!” he was angry. I leant across the couch, wrapping arms around him in a bid to calm the agitation, he tried to resist but was unable to break my hold so sulked inside himself. “We’re not laughing at you, it’s just you only heard the words, you weren’t listening to what she was actually saying” I attempted to make him understand however he was so livid at feeling we’d been making fun at him, it took another fifteen minutes until he’d calmed down enough to listen, with a wave of his hand I was given permission to continued.
“Well what was she saying then?” he asked. I looked at Blonde “you want to go?”. “No, you explain things better than I do” she instructed. “Ok, well, she was insecure about the relationship and where it was going. She was looking for support and reassurance from you! But you didn’t hear that, you took the words she used literally and not the general expression of how she was feeling. This didn’t make sense to you, so you asked her to explain. She was trying to but didn’t know how to make her feelings clear for you to understand, by you questioning her choice of words, she ended up talking herself into a corner, then became frustrated at her point not being heard and tried one last attempt at making herself understood by summing it up as you being too ‘eloquent’. Unfortunately all you heard was ‘I’m dumping you because you speak better than me, you’re eloquent’. She meant that you take every word so literally and didn’t really understand what was she was trying to say, do you see?” I finished.
He pulled away “but that doesn’t make any sense” he looked confused. “Ok, umm let me try another example” I thought for a second “oh, ok, so my ex and I would have these fights, we’d go to bed and he’d ask what was wrong, I’d say I was tired, what would you do in that situation?” I asked. “Well you said you were tired, so I’d go to sleep” he decided. “No! That’s the worst thing! I was never saying I was tired and needed sleep, I was tired of the argument, the stress, fighting, situation, etc etc etc, that all I wanted was to be hugged and told it would all be ok” I complained. “Well that’s stupid, why not just say that?” Alaska questioned, that frown between his eyes returning. “Because we’re female, we feel stuff and think those feelings are obvious to men, but men only hear the words, not all the important things left unsaid”. “But it doesn’t make any sense” Alaska concluded.
“I’m going to go to bed” Blonde rose from her spot, gathering up her jumper and book. “If you’re going up, can you take my stuff with you?” I asked, passing up my computer and sunglasses, she piled them on top on her book, balancing with one arm. My sunglasses skidded across the top of the laptop, threatening to fall, she caught them with her other hand, squeezing them tight ‘ooh please don’t crush them’ I thought as she walked away.
At Blonde’s departure, Alaska and I returned to the conversation as I tried to explain the inner workings of a women’s mind and the complexities of how we communicate “but it’s stupid!” he keep saying “it doesn’t make any sense”. I asked how he dealt with situations, with friendships, emotions, relationships etc. His mother hadn’t been the most desirable of parents, leaving him and his brother from a young age, tearing a scar into his heart that he’d patched up with words. “So, wait, any problem you’ve ever had you’ve just thought it through and worked out some logical way of dealing with it? You don’t let yourself feel anything?” my own head tilted in his direction. “I don’t want to let people get close to me, if people get close then they let you down” he justified. “But you don’t let yourself feel! Of course relationships haven’t worked out! How could they?”
You’re like a baby! No, you’re aware of your emotions you just don’t know how to use them! You’re five! You’re literally a five year old!” I determined, he was silent, a sadness settling over him. “It’s ok, I’m only four myself, all I have is emotions and no logic, I hear everything people aren’t saying and nothing they are, I fed all my emotional needs into my mother and now I don’t know what to do”. We both felt a little fragile at that point. “Can you” he stopped, I knew what he wanted to ask, he paused “I want to ask” I couldn’t say it for him “just, would you” he was struggling “will you” ‘just say it’ I pleaded in my mind “will you share the bed with me tonight” he finally got round to it before adding in haste “not in a sexual way, I mean not like that, just, I, I need to be hugged”. So, like the four and five year olds that we were, we clung to each other as we slept, no sexual chemistry, just two scared children cast adrift in the world.
The following day was Alaska’s birthday, Blonde had gone off for a day trip with Geo and his family. Alaska had one rule on his birthday, he only did whatever he wanted, there would be no planning, just spur of the moment decisions which resulted in various errands and spending several hours just sitting in a coffee shop. That night Geo and Blonde returned, we surprised Alaska with a birthday cake and settled down for a screening of The Goonies, a film which Blonde, being the 90’s baby she is, had never seen. Geo stayed over, taking my place in the bed next to Blonde “it’s fine, I’ll share with Alaska, he doesn’t hog the bed quite so much” I jokingly dug at Blonde.
“Do you think they are hooking up?” I asked Alaska as we laid there that night, “I hope so, it would be good for Geo, it’s hard to meet women up here” came the reply. “Yeah, he’s nice, they’d be a good couple”. “Hey, you got everything organised for Seattle yet?” Alaska turned the conversation. “Ughh, well I’ve messaged a few couch surfer hosts about staying and have been getting quotes for a car hire. So it seems, with insurance and stuff, it’ll be a lot easier to just hire a car for the entire time, rather than try and buy one” I relayed.
“Has Blonde sorted out her money yet?” Alaska followed up. “No! She hasn’t had her credit card sent on from Australia as we don’t know where we’re staying yet, so the car will have to go on my card which I’m really not happy about. She hasn’t looked up any accommodation or anything. Actually I was the one who booked all the flights, figured out the entire route, booked all the accommodation so far. The one time she tried to book accommodation in Hawaii she fucked it up and we were just lucky the my friend had to come to the rescue. I’ve had to look up all the car options. I’ve had to lend her money because she didn’t change any of her Australian cash over. Ughhh, I’ve been doing everything, it’s not fair!” I moaned, anger building.
“Well have you told her any of this?” he asked. “I shouldn’t have to! If it was the other way around, I’d be very aware that the other person was doing everything, how can she not?” I sulked back, kicking the sheet with my foot. “But you’re used to having to do everything on your own, you’re used to organising, it’s what you do for a job. She’s never had to do stuff on her own, she’s always had people to do it for her” he readjusted the sheet over our feet.
“Well that’s true, but she thinks she’s all independent and has travelled alone and stuff. You know last summer she spent five months in Europe but she did these organised bus tours where everything is planned for you, plus she stayed with relatives, so she only ever had a two or three days max where she wasn’t with other people, that’s doesn’t make you an experienced traveller. I sound like a dick don’t I? Ughh it’s just annoying when she says how independent she is but she relies on other people. It’s not fair, I don’t have anyone to fall back on, I don’t have anyone, if I don’t organise stuff, it won’t happen” I was sad, I was annoyed at Blonde for having a family to look after her, for how easy her life seemed in comparison. “Well she doesn’t know any of that, you need to have a dialogue with her” Alaska summarised. “But I hate confrontation” I groaned, pulling the sheet over my head.
Alaska worked his way around the kitchen, whipping up hashbrowns “so you just add water?” The hashbrowns just come out of a carton? You don’t have to shred an actual potato? Well that’s weird! America is weird!” I examined the packaging. “Why would you slice up a potato? Who has time for that?” came the response. Blonde appeared at the door “mmmmm” she reviewed the cooking.
“Oh, hey, where did you put my sunglasses?” I asked. “I don’t know, where did you put them?” she replied, sitting down on the island stool next to me. “You, where did you put my sunglasses? You had them?” I questioned back. “No I didn’t? I never had your sunglasses!” she snapped. “Oh my god, yes you did! You took them up stairs for me with my computer the other night, the computer was on top of my suitcase but the glasses were nowhere to be seen. I went through all my stuff when you were out with Geo yesterday but couldn’t find them anywhere”. “I never touched your glasses” she folded her arms, her refusal to even try and remember causing bubbles of irritation to rise in me. “Yes you diddddd! I asked you to take them upstairs and they slipped across the top of the computer. I remember because I was worried about you crushing them in your hand, Alaska, you were there, remember?” I turned it on him, he looked up from the spitting eggs “err, I can’t remember”.
“Well I can go look in my stuff but I’m sure I didn’t have them”. We both went upstairs as I listed the scene in a bid to jog her memory “I bought them downstairs because we were going to sit outside” I insisted “I asked you to take them upstairs because I remembered thinking I didn’t want to stand on them accidentally when I got up to pee. Because I really needed to pee but I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation with Alaska. I remember it all, see, you had them, remember?”. Half an hour later we returned to Alaska, after pulling our room apart but to no sunglass avail, our eggs and hashbrowns plated up and going cold.
“No luck?” he asked. “No!” I picked up my fork. I felt petty but it just seemed so typical, for the previous few weeks she’d been demanding people be careful with her belongs ‘don’t crush my leather jacket’ and ‘I don’t want my suitcase to get marked’ but she seemed to take no care of other peoples stuff. Ughhhh, I was annoyed.
“I know it seems petty but sunglasses never suit me, I’ve a small head, like a little pin head! It’s really hard to find good glasses and those ones weren’t cheap. And, and I got them when I did a road-trip a few years ago with Bridezilla, it was such a fun trip, it’s one of the last times I was really happy before everything went bad. I know they’re just sunglasses but they just, I’m sort of emotionally attached to them and I hate losing stuff, I never lose stuff, well apart from my toothbrush the other day but that doesn’t count” I sounded like an idiot. Blonde pushed her eggs around the plate, grabbing the ketchup aggressively. “Why are you in a mood!” I demanded. “I’m not. I just feel like you’re blaming me!” she snapped back. “Well you’re the one that lost them!” my anger growing. “Right, ok, you two need to talk!” Alaska butted in.
We finished eating and sat down in the living room, Alaska began “this road-trip isn’t going to work unless you two communicate better! You need to listen to each other. Becky, why don’t you explain some of the things you’ve been getting annoyed about?” I didn’t like being talked to like a child, I didn’t need him to get in the middle of this, but perhaps he had a point.
“Ok, well, ok” I turned to Blonde “I don’t feel you were prepared for this trip, you hadn’t sorted out your money or done anything towards the organising. I’ve had to do everything so far and it doesn’t feel very fair”. “That’s not true, I, I sorted out where we were staying at the National Park!” Blonde tried. “No you didn’t! I Googled it, found the number, all you did was call them to make the reservation. On my phone. With my bank card!” I quipped back.
“Ok, ok, what Becky is saying, is that she feels a bit like she has to full fill the role of Mother Hen and is taking on more responsibility than she is comfortable with” Alaska pointed out. “I know what you’re saying but all I could think was that I want her to be Mother Hen” Blonde looked sheepish. ‘What the fuck!!!!’ I yelled internally ‘just because I’m older doesn’t mean I have to carry your ass!!’. “Also I didn’t know that you were getting annoyed, you have to tell me this otherwise how can I do anything about it? I’ll start booking accommodation, where do we need it from?” she asked. “Well I’m waiting to hear back on Seattle but after that, I’ve got everything covered until Salt Lake city” I quickly worked out. “Ok, when do we get to Salt Lake?” she responded “ughh, in 10 days time” I finished.
Geo was staying over that night in order to drive us to the airport at 3.30am, ready for our 5am flight; I flopped down on Alaska’s bed “I know, I know, I still need to pack, just give me a minute” I dangled my feet off the bed to signal they would soon be moving. “You seem agitated?” he flopped down next to me. “I just really want to find those glasses, I can’t really afford to buy any more and I really don’t want to have to drive without them. And, well I know it’s silly but she hasn’t taken any responsibility, she hasn’t apologised or even admitted she had them, I took every single item out of my bag trying to find them, she just moved her stuff in her case from side to side when we looked. You know, in Hawaii when we had that fight, I apologised but she didn’t. That’s not how apologies work” I went on. Blonde and Geo walked in “what are you two up to?” she asked.
“We’re talking about apologies” Alaska stated. “What about them?” Blonde questioned. Ughh I didn’t want to get into this ‘I just want to pack my stuff and get four hours of sleep before we leave’ I groaned internally. “Bec says that after a fight both people should apologise” Alaska answered. “Why? Why apologise if you didn’t do anything wrong?” came what I deemed to be a dumb response.
“Because that’s not how fights work, no one has an argument where it’s just one person yelling at the other for no reason. Both parties, say stuff. Apologies work because one person apologies for their part in it and then the other person apologies for what they did!” I demonstrated. “You apologise when you do something wrong but it’s not expected that both side apologise to each other” Alaska and Geo discussed. “In the States when someone fucks up, they apologise for their fuck up. If I start a fight then I apologise for starting the fight because it’s my fault”.
“No, that’s not how it works, there are two sides to an argument, I mean sure if one person is being a dick, yeah but that’s not a fight, a fight takes two people. Sure one might have more to apologise for than the other but both say stuff! It’s just good manners!” I stated. “Ah you Brits!” Alaska joked. Blonde started “I agree with the boys, you don’t expect an apology if you apologise”. I was feeling ganged up on “No! In Hawaii we had that fight, we were both at fault, I apologised at the airport for my part and you said nothing. You didn’t take any responsibility for anything you said or did”. “Yes I did!” she insisted. “No, you didn’t! I said sorry as we walked onto the plane and I find it really hard to apologise and you didn’t say anything, actually you said ‘that’s ok’ but then said nothing, I remember thinking at the time it was rude you hadn’t said anything back!” I was feeling more and more petty with every word that escaped my mouth. “Well you should have said at the time!” said Blonde “yeah, you need to communicate more” Alaska chimed in. “I’m going to go pack” I rose to leave.
An hour later, Blonde and I had forced all our belongings and problems into various cases, zipping them shut, not to be opened again until Seattle, I returned downstairs to find a smug Alaska, pleased with himself for instigating Blonde and I discussing our problems. “What’s the matter?” he asked. I explained that I hadn’t felt very supported and that I didn’t appreciate him forcing a conversation that hadn’t been needed at that moment.
Because he was such a five year old, he didn’t understand why I was annoyed. I tried to explain that I needed him to create a safe environment for me to be honest with him, that I needed him to be patient and caring even if I sounded irrational. I was trying to highlight it as an example so he could use it in the future. I told him that even if my logic for feeling upset seemed odd to him, a girl needs to hear the guy feed it back so that she knows he was listening, apologise for making her feel that way if appropriate and appreciate her honesty.
Of course, the whole concept seemed utterly stupid to him and I had to agree that when you spell it out, it is stupid but that’s irrelevant because sometimes that’s just how a girl needs to be communicated with. She doesn’t want advice for her problems, she just wants to be listened to and supported. He fought this logic because he didn’t understand it, frustration built because it went against everything he had taught himself over the years in how to act in such situations. He explained that he thought he was doing the right thing when he asked if a girl was ok? She’d answered that she was ‘fine’ he would walk away so she would have the space to sort it out instead of listening, which I pointed out would only make a girl more angry.
I again brought up the example of me being ‘tired’ and how Alaska would respond to that saying ‘ok, let’s go to sleep then’. I told him that all he was hearing was the simple thing and the obvious thing to fix, not the reason why I/the girl would be upset. I explained how that solution would play out, him going to sleep and her not sleeping and becoming increasingly upset. Alaska struggled to understand, admitting that was exactly how things had played out in the past.
He started to question himself, closing in, his body curled into itself, self protecting. He was getting angry “don’t lash out” I asked, he curled tighter “what if I never get it? People are always going to leave aren’t they? I’m worthless…” he was despairing at himself. “Shut up, of course you’re good enough! Say ‘I am worth everything’ it will make you feel better!”. He couldn’t say it, as much as I tried to get him to say it he couldn’t, somehow I was touching a raw nerve, in the dark of the room, wrapped up in sheets of the bed, I’d stripped him bare. Finally, through tears, he admitted that perhaps, after all, he was worth something, he was good enough, but still unable to say he was worth everything.
With a break through achieved I was about to settle down for some much needed sleep when Alaska spun me off my side and over onto my back; looking down on me, he leaned in and planted a kiss on my lips. “Piss off! Don’t muddy the waters. You know we don’t have that. I fed him his own words back, you said you’re not attracted to me. At all! That we don’t have that piece of the jigsaw remember! Don’t force something that isn’t there!” I pushed him off me.
We hugged instead, I could feel his vulnerability. “You’re angry” I announced, knowing it was nothing to do with the kiss but entirely with his own internal battle about recognising any value in himself. “If that’s how you feel, then feel it, at least it’s an emotion. Thrash out if you need to, attack me, I can handle it” I said, stupidly thinking I was strong enough to take on his emotional confusion. “Honestly, I would rather fuck, than lash out at you” he stated angrily. “Ha, no you don’t. You just think we’re close because we’ve shared some of our innermost feelings and you think if we had sex it would make us even closer. But it wouldn’t, it would make things all kinds of awkward and weird between us. You only want to fuck right now because you want to feel something other than the pain in your chest that I exposed!” I spoke into the dark.
“You don’t find me physically attractive remember, you’ve never said one thing along the lines of how I look” I added. “I do think you’re attractive, I’m attracted to your spark, your inner beauty, to how deep you are, to what makes you, you” he said. “Yeah, I know that, that’s why we’re friends, we like the people we are inside but that’s not enough for anything more than friendship, you’re not sexually attracted to me and as vain as it sounds, I’m still a girl who’s grown up in western society where you’re told that all that really matters is how you look on the outside. I know that shouldn’t be important but I still want to be with someone who finds me physically attractive, inside and out!” it seemed silly once said but it felt important to me.
“Do you have any pictures of when you were thinner?” he asked. “Well yeah, of course, they’re on Facebook but I’m not going to show you right now just to justify something to you!” I stated. He laughed at me calling him out “no I was going to lie and say you looked the same” he returned. “Well that’s not helpful!” I erupted, beginning to feel self-conscious. “No true. If I’m honest, yeah, I find you attractive, even though you’re not my normal type. I usually go for girls who are petite and blonde with a really nice bum, which you do not have any of those attributes, the blonde hair or a perfect ass. Also your teeth aren’t perfectly straight either, but those don’t matter since it’s your mind that I’m attracted to and value. You’re right I’m not attracted to you at all” he concluded in a sarcastic and cutting way.
It cut me. I was heavier than I was comfortable with but I wasn’t exactly overweight and yeah, sure, my ass wasn’t going to win any awards, it was a pancake ass, flat and spread. I have wide hips, the ass has to stretch to reach them and and my waist is narrow and legs long and all together, well it only all adds to the illusion of a rather wide butt; I knew this, I was fully aware of it but I did not need some jerk from Alaska with mummy issue pointing it out. It’s one thing knowing you’re not someone’s perfect figure choice, it’s another thing having it highlighted to you at 2am before at 5am flight.
I laid there bruised, feeling fat, ugly and hurt. He tried to hug me “Great, now I’ve done something wrong but I don’t know what I did or how to fix it?” he asked. I wanted to shrug him off, to make him pay, beg for my forgiveness, to curl up into a ball and cry. None of this had worked with my ex and he’d been experienced in relationships, this Alaskan, well he was a five year old with a barbed wire heart, throwing toys and missiles out, trying to protect himself, he would need it all explained to him.
I rolled over, I didn’t want to talk to him but I tried. “You were upset because I got close and made you question how you handled things. You were frustrated because things I said went against what you’ve taught yourself. You did what you always do when someone gets close. You attack. You throw weapons at them. You read people and worse, you manipulate them. You got me to tell you my insecurities and then you threw them back at me. That’s cruel! It’s selfish! I was trying to help you and you attacked me! You made me feel broken and I’m tired of being broken! It’s not fair, you shouldn’t do that to people just because you can!” I shared.
“I know, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do. I want to feel something but I just have a void” he was trying to turn it back on himself but I was mad. “No you don’t!” I snapped back “You feel guilt and sadness right now yes? Well those are emotions and all emotions come from the heart! You wrap yours up with words in your head but the core feelings, that’s your heart! Sometimes you feel great and sometimes you feel like this! It’s all in your heart!” my patience had run out, I was angry.
“I just want to love and be loved” he mumbled.
“You want love? This is love! It’s a deep connection with someone and wanting to be with them all day, it’s reaching out and touching them, it’s feeling warmth for them, it’s putting their needs above yours. But it’s also attacking them in arguments, taking swipes, hurting them with words in the depth of night because you feel so deeply. This is love, it’s high and low, that’s how it works. Love is beauty and pain. This is it! It’s fucking hard and painful, that’s how it is!” I yelled as if I knew anything about what I was saying.
“Ughhh what is it you want from me!” I requested. “I want your love” he whispered. “No you don’t, you just want someone to love you, it’s nothing to do with me, you just want to connect with someone! I am not strong enough for you, you’d destroy me. I don’t know how, you need to let people in, stop throwing toys at them!” I explained as best I could.
“Blonde knocked on the door “ready to go?”. We left for the airport, the lack of sleep fuzzing my head, my phone beeped “I love you” Alaska’s text. I relayed the conversation to Blonde as we stood in line for security, a rather rotund lady called us forward “is it too soon for bum jokes?” Blonde asked. “It will always be too soon for bum jokes!” I replied with a smile.