Story

12

A particularly loud grumble from your stomach seemingly echoed off the walls of nearby buildings. In all likelihood, no one noticed the sound, but to your mind, all too conscious of the noise, all eyes turned to your and murmured conversations invariably focused on the source of your embarrassment. Your pace quickened by a step as you hurried to the section of the plaza dedicated to consumables.
 
As you entered the plaza, your senses were assaulted by the smell of freshly baked bread. The warm, slightly spicy aroma seemed to draw you toward the stall where a man was just stacking loaves. The enticing scent was pulling in others, but you were fortunate enough to be first in line, and the man smiled knowingly at you. “Fresh baked and ready to eat! Only three gold coins for a loaf!”
 
The pitch was completely unnecessary – in the few brief moments that you had stood there, the bread had gone from “enticing” to “necessary”. Eagerly, you reached down to your coin pouch… and as you lifted it, the complete lack of resistance was an icy bolt, blasting you from your trance. The overly polished gauntlet shining on your arm seemed to laugh, mocking you for what had originally seemed like such a sound investment. It took all your effort to lower your head and stutter out the words, “I… I don’t.. have three coins.”
 
The man’s countenance cracked, if only for a moment, as he found himself split between sympathy and the necessity of ensuring his sales. Every second that he wasn’t selling his wares, it was losing value. He grabbed a loaf of bread from beneath his counter and held it out. “This was baked yesterday, but it’s still fresh. One gold coin.”
 
You were about to show him your purse, completely void of any sort of monetary presence, when the familiar sensation of pinpricks rippled down your shoulder. The dragon, clutching its lone treasure, scurried onto the back of your hand and chirped inquisitively at you. Your eyes traveled from it, to the loaf of bread, and back again. Once more, your stomach growled, and the rumblings of the crowd behind you, eager to procure their own food, grew more and more agitated. The man, clearly trying to avoid a scene, pushed the bread closer to you. “One coin, c’mon, I got people to feed here.”
 
The dragon cocked its head at you, puzzled, while hesitation froze you for an eternally long several seconds. Finally, hefting the tiny creature and it’s prize, you sighed. “Appreciate the offer.” Turning your body sideways to slip past the crowd, by now even more frustrated that you had seemingly wasted their time, you gazed upon the dragon and wondered, not for the first time, when a single coin and its companion had gained so much value to you.
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School

So far, school has been going about as well as I expected it to – which is to say, fairly well.  As far as I know, I’m essentially acing the classes that I signed up for.  I did drop my accounting class – partially because I wasn’t learning the material quickly enough for my taste, and partially because I absolutely hated the way that the instructor was teaching it.

A few weeks ago, I was over at Joe’s house on Wednesday night to hang out and play Smash and such.  His brother Jeff was preoccupied with his laptop, and eventually I wandered over to see what was holding his attention.  He showed me coding that he’d been working on, and mentioned that there was a bug somewhere, and I eagerly pulled up a chair to try and help debug it.  About 10-15 minutes later, we succeeded.  That brief experience was enough to remind me of how much I enjoy coding, and programming.  Now I find something facing a dilemma.  I’d decided to switch to an accounting career path.  Do I look, again, at changing that?  If so, the classes I’m taking this semester could potentially be a huge waste of time and money.  If not, I have to take the accounting class again – and what if I still don’t get it?  What if I don’t like it?  The last thing I want to do is get into a job that I don’t enjoy again.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to succeed in school.  I have to.  I can’t fail.

Progress… or realistically, a lack of it

For the past several months, I’ve forced myself to be distant from the person that I am still in love with, believing that it would be for the best until I was secure in my ability to not only live my life without her, but thrive.  I cannot, will not, let codependency define who I am.  I started taking the steps necessary to achieve that goal – I quit my job, where I was terribly unhappy.  I’ve begun to go back to school.  I’m working out at least 2-3 times a week to lose the weight that I’ve put on.  All of these are steps in the right direction… but it hasn’t been enough.

When scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, the mere sight of her name would always send a wrench through my gut.  I’d feel such an intense sense of loss, of longing, of desire, that it would twist my insides into knots.  Every single time.  This, I knew wasn’t “normal”, or healthy.  It represented, to me, an attachment that was still much too strong.  Of course I know that I want to be with her.  I’ve known that for years.  But being with her at the expense of myself isn’t something that I can realistically do, or ask her to endure.

But then, tonight.  I got home from a long day at Anvil.  I’m exhausted, both from running the tournament (which I shouldn’t have needed to do) and from the drive.  I’m scrolling through Facebook, idly seeing things… and then it hits me in the face.  Sonya is in a relationship.  My insides twisted again, but this time it didn’t feel like a knot – no, it felt like someone had stabbed me with a knife.  I struggled to maintain a steady breathing pattern but I felt the unmistakable beginnings of an anxiety attack stir to life inside of me.  The woman that I love is, once again, in a relationship with someone else.

This is the third person since we last broke up.  I thought that we might have had the rekindlings of something, especially when she came over to play cards one night.  But I suppose not.  True, we went two and a half months without talking – but that was as much on her as it was on me.  She never reached out to say hi, or anything of the sort.  I can’t be the one solely responsible for initiating conversation.

… So, by that token, if she’d wanted to talk to me, she would have.

So she doesn’t really want anything to do with me.

I guess that’s just how it is.  I guess the sooner I fully accept that the sooner I can move on.

I hate it.  I hate it.  I hate it.

Dream

For whatever reason, I haven’t remembered many of my dreams lately.  That’s a change from how I used to be – it used to be that I’d wake up with a pretty clear memory of my dreams every night.  But that stopped happening at some point, and last night’s dream is the first that I’ve been able to vividly remember for quite some time.

A large number of the MD/VA people were participating in some kind of motorcycle race.  It was a longer one, where we had to ride for quite some time just to get there, and we stopped to check a map, Breath of the Wild-style, multiple times.  The thing that I remember most vividly from the dream was the feeling of being on the motorcycle and really just opening it up.  The feeling of power, of being a part of that, of letting go and losing myself to the experience, was intoxicating.  My mind being what it is, of course, near the end of the dream I passed a couple of police officers (along with everyone else) and it scared me – but they didn’t come after us.  We were about to get on a highway and really go for it when we received notice that one of our members’ race was starting soon.  As we went to turn around and head back to the starting position, I woke up to an insistently beeping pair of alarm clocks. I was late for work.

It was worth it.  Taking motorcycle lessons is something I’ve thought about doing many times in my life, and this might have been the catalyst for me to make it happen.

Tachibana

In the days leading up to it, I was more excited about Thursday evening than I had been for almost any other night.  Even compared to the trip that I took the previous weekend for Frostbite, Thursday night won out.  Why?  Because I was truly excited about where I was going, about who I was going there with, and about the experience we would have.

On Sunday, when I was coming home from Frostbite, I was talking with Sonya about picking me up, and how I wanted to repay her.  Her suggestion was that I take her out to dinner one night that week.  I gladly accepted this as compensation, both because it would be something she’d enjoy, and because I’d love doing that anyway.  Win/win situations aren’t the most common thing, but damn if they aren’t fantastic.

That same night, I had our destination in mind – Tachibana, the Japanese restaurant that we both love so much.  I weighed my potential courses for announcing this to her, and wondered, to an extent, what she would think or say about it.  It was a special place for the both of us – would she see any deeper meaning in it?  Should I even worry about that?  Eventually, I decided that my best course of action was going to be to simply ask her if she had any suggestions, or whether she wanted me to pick the place, and so I did on Wednesday morning.  When she found out what I had in mind, she seemed genuinely excited, and that only made me more so.  Thursday morning dawned with the hope of a wonderful evening, and so accordingly work took forever to finish.  I raced home, where we had agreed to meet.

Her outfit… oh, god, her outfit.  She looked amazing.  She wore a white flower-themed shirt atop a simple pair of jeans.  Black heels and flower earrings completed the look.  It was a fantastic outfit and I told her as such.  We left for Tachibana in high spirits, and the drive there seemed to fly by.  Parking was more of an issue than normal, and we had a brief scare when I tried to fit into a parking spot just barely large enough for the car.  I made it in alright, before Sonya convinced me that it wasn’t a good idea.  Backing out of that parking spot was terrifying for both of us, though she almost seemed to have a heart attack from it.  We got a “normal” parking space, however, and ventured inside.

Tachibana itself was as amazing as it always is.  We debated about trying new things, and eventually mixed it up a bit on appetizers, but we both ordered the “Special” sushi dinner.  I felt a bit embarrassed ordering the same thing as her, especially with wanting to be adventurous, but damn it, that was some good food.  We got age-dofu (fried tofu) and sawara miso yaki (broiled mackeral) as our appetizers, and they were both delicious.  Our sushi was fantastic, as it always is, minus the sea urchin roll.  I don’t think either of us really cared for it too much.  Our dinner was finished off with mochi ice cream, per tradition, and we got the white sesame (which, earlier in the night, I mistakenly called black peppercorn… kill me now) and green tea varieties.  The drive  back was a bit more quiet, but we did talk briefly about a trip to Japan.  Since it had come up, I had wondered if she’d still want to go with me.  She had told me that she would quite a long time ago, but I didn’t know how true it would hold, and I couldn’t think of a good roundabout way to ask her.  Finally I just did, and she said “maybe”… but she said maybe because she was considering her work schedule and plans, not because she didn’t want to.  That was enough for me.

She asked me, on the way home, if I’d like to play a round of Fortune Street before she left, and I enthusiastically agreed, as it had been a long time since I’d really gotten to play it.  The game went fine, though we both ran into some bad luck early on (her more than me) and we struggled through much of the game.  I ended up winning thanks to a lucky card draw at the very end of the game – if I hadn’t, I was going to give her the money to ensure that she would.  Letting a computer win would have been absolutely unacceptable.

The night was fantastic, and I enjoyed it a lot.  I’m glad that we can still enjoy each other’s company as much as we do.  I need to continue to enjoy the time I have with her while not longing for but so much more – I have to continue to focus on my own life before anything else.

As I told her that night, though, when I look into her eyes, I can’t help but be happy.  And then I can’t help but smile.  It’s literally an involuntary reaction.  That… scares me, a bit.

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