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I'm not sure if it's my Porphyria acting up because I haven't eaten anything yet today, but it's definitely been one of those days.

I've got buttloads of homework I've been very slowly meandering through, but I just can't seem to focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I'm not really hungry, but knowing I need to get some carbs into my system, I have food on the way here. Maybe after I eat something I'll feel a little bit better, and my mind won't wander nearly as much.

The truth is, I miss her. I never thought I'd think that at this point, let alone say it, but I do. Perhaps it was the conversation I had earlier today with [livejournal.com profile] redeemed_143 , maybe it's the conversation I had with my roommate earlier today about the fact that I'm spending a lot of time by myself; easy to understand, what with classes getting back in and the lack of a car, but I know she and her boyfriend need some time to themselves as well. The main catalyst for my realization, though, just came about an hour or so ago when I was writing a pre-lab for Chemistry and Nickodemus popped up on my Pandora station. I immediately recognized the track without having to look, and memories started flooding back just as quickly.

It was just over two years ago, and I was in the middle of my tour in hell as a recruiter. Tana and I hadn't yet moved in together, and the proposal was still eleven months away. However, our relationship had gotten very serious, and of course our shared love of good music had been the basis for many fun nights and adventures, as much as my schedule would allow. I remember the look of excitement on her face when she told me about one of her favorite artists, New York-based Nickodemus, who was scheduled to play a show soon at the Kava Lounge here in San Diego, and how she'd already taken the liberty of getting tickets for us. Thankfully, I was able to make it home at a decent hour on the night of January 18th, 2008 for us to be able to make it to the show with plenty of time to spare.

The Kava Lounge is located on Kettner Street- probably just over a mile where we would soon be making a home together- perched precariously on the hill overlooking the airport. The club had been the first location of The Casbah, and Tana told me about her first experiences going to shows there with that gleam in her eye that always showed itself when she was especially excited about something. I immediately liked the location, the local artwork hanging on the walls, and the delicious all-organic drinks they served at the bar, and we talked about how we should hang out there more often, once we had the time. More of those plans we started making that were doomed to never reach fruition.

The show itself was amazing- Nickodemus had live musicians backing him, guest vocalists, and even a couple of local DJ's also sharing the stage with him. We danced, in our own little world of rhythm and music, entranced by the beats and each other, and completely oblivious to the rest of the world around us.

As I continue listening to music from the same artists and other similar to him, I can't help but find myself wondering about what's been said and done, and what might have been. Part of my procrastinating on my homework today has involved re-reading old posts on her blog page, and I can't help but ask myself if she really meant it when she said we were never meant to be, and that she could never see herself as a wife. I couldn't help but picture how today would have been different if things had gone differently- I'd be sitting at the dining room table working on Calculus and Chemistry while she'd be puttering around, probably watching a bit of Food Network and trying so hard to simultaneously be non-intrusive to my efforts, but wanting to flirtatiously steal my attention away from my studies as often as I'd let her. Instead of getting Chinese food delivered here, one of us would be cooking something organic and mostly vegetarian, and we'd probably both have glasses of wine in hand- maybe either one of the bottles we'd picked up in Temecula  or one that had been a wedding present. And when it was time for bed, we'd be cuddled up together in the bed that we bought together, and in the morning she'd be up, sipping her first cup of coffee, and probably making sure I had a lunch packed by the time I dragged myself out of the bedroom. Such was our routine for most of our year in Little Italy.

I had a talk with a friend recently about things that I still have a hard time doing, or can't even bring myself to do at all any more. Taking the trolley to school had been an adventure- my heart starts beating furiously in my chest when the train approaches the Little Italy stop, and if I happen to look over at the County Center building across Pacific Highway, where we'd applied and paid for our marriage license a scant two weeks before the breakup, I can feel a great sense of sadness wash over me. The same thing happens as the trolley crosses Union Street as it continues it's trip downtown; every time, I glance down Union Street to where I once lived, and as I see the top of the high-rise tower of the La Vita complex poking above the surrounding buildings, the same fleeting wave of melancholy hits me again. Strangely enough, I can't seem to look away- like a grisly train wreck or something, I can't seem to NOT look away when the train passes my old street. I don't know if it's my subconscious saying, "hey asshole, you're supposed to be living there," or what. Maybe. I still can't bring myself to go back through Balboa Park, I'm thankful that we don't have a TV here (that way I don't have Jeopardy and and Food Network constantly reminding me of things), and as I look through internships and part-time job opportunities, I find myself purposely avoiding anything having to do with Sempra or SDG&E, and there are still several restaurants around town that I can't even think about eating at. And Lord help the girl that wants to go out downtown with me.

Memory serves a purpose, and emotion is a big part of that. I'm feeling too lazy and hungry right now to look up any wise or witty quotes about that, but I know they're out there. Anyway, I keep telling myself that everything happens for a reason, that there's something else down the road that's going to make all of this seem like it was a fleeting rough patch in my life. However, if nothing else, memory serves the purpose of reminding us where we've been, which is important to know where we're going. Take physics, for example. A vector has to have both a starting point and an endpoint, otherwise it would be impossible to determine anything in between. So, as I figure out what my direction and magnitude are, a little bit of looking over the shoulder has to be expected, right?
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I first met Nick a little under 7 years ago. We were both working night shift on T- Track, the holding period between A-School and Power School. He was a few months older than me, a Machinist's Mate. He was an only child, adopted by his significantly older parents, who were Polish. His own heritage was Greek. That much was overly obvious from his olive complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes. He was an avid soccer player, and during those nights goofing off in the school building, we quickly came to realize we had a lot of interests in common. As another plus, he was just as wet behind the ears and naive as I was at that time. Looking back, that should have been a warning sign, but I wouldn't have known better if somebody had told me. 

We quickly became good friends, and hung out quite a bit outside of work; we'd run together on our class's morning River Run (3 1/2 miles total down and back to the bank of the James River through the humidity and mosquito- filled August mornings, chatting about whatever crossed our minds, cracking cheesy jokes (Nick MUCH more so than I), and just enjoying the feeling of a good, strenuous workout. 

With the end of our T- Track break looming quickly, we took one last weekend road trip to Myrtle Beach before we were forced to buckle down for the mental balancing act that is Naval Nuclear Power School. I remember the weekend very well: I woke up around noon and walked over to Nick's room- he was already awake, toting a bag for the weekend and a handful of tools to work on the new sound system on his car with- we'd previously decided that his Nissan Maxima was much more attractive to the ladies than my little decal- adorned Honda Accord (but not by much). Besides, in the event we decided to take turns driving, nobody else knew how to drive a stick. After wrestling and wrangling with the custom enclosures for his Sony Xplod speakers (they were brand new at the time) for the better part of 3 hours, I suddenly realized that we didn't need to use any adapters or drill any additional holes- the damn things would just drop into the stock speaker holes reasonably well. Besides, we were burning daylight, and in my virginal mind, the sooner we got up to Myrtle Beach, the sooner we could find girls to (attempt to) hook up with. Plus, it was Labor Day weekend, and I had a vague idea how heavy traffic was going to be. Finally, new speakers (somewhat) securely installed, we jumped into Nick's car and hightailed it up the old US-17 through coastal swamps and across the Santee River to the Myrtle Beach.

Now, for those of you from San Diego, Myrtle Beach is a little like Pacific Beach, but much more wild. Think block upon block of hotels and motels on the beach and on either side of Ocean Blvd (the main drag running parallel to the beach), with tourist trap t-shirt shops, bars, theme restaurants, and clubs shoved in between. Now, add literally thousands of alcohol and hormone- fueled teens and young adults cruising down the strip, pretending they're in New Orleans during Mardi Gras (complete with beads, flashing, hooking up in/ on cars), and you've got a pretty good picture of Myrtle Beach seven months out of the year. We loved it- after all, with all the young, hot, wild, drunk girls around, who COULDN'T get laid?

Yep. You guessed it. But not without a monumental effort on the parts of both Nick and myself. Birds of a feather, as they say.

After we checked into our hotel, we grabbed dinner, changed, and wandered down the street until we found a club that looked sufficiently shiny- The Freaky Tiki. The thumping bass pouring out of the door drew us in like moths to a flame. We flashed our ID's, paid our cover charge, and were given the "black X's of death" as we called them (back east, most clubs are 18 and up- San Diego bar owners don't know how much money they're missing out on), and walked into the biggest tunafest I'd experienced in my scant 19 years alive. Seriously, the girl to guy ratio was ridiculously skewed. I'm not sure how we'd chanced upon that, but I wasn't going to complain. We grabbed Cokes, and enjoyed the scenery. 

This was my first exposure to Nick's dancing. Mandy, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You see, my tall, dark, handsome friend fancied himself an accomplished techno/ house dancer. Me, not knowing any better at that point in time (I didn't go clubbing a lot in A- school with my classmates. I should have, though...), was impressed with his moves. Problem was, while Nick was definitely enthusiastic about his moves, his long, lanky limbs made him look more like a flailing chicken than a smooth dance king. I somehow failed to notice the looks on the faces of the girls around us, but then again, who said I was looking at their faces? 

As is customary for all clubs in major Spring Break destinations (Rosarito is the same way), there was of course a wet t-shirt contest, and a boxer short model show, whatever that meant. I convinced Nick to enter the latter, and he almost won the whole thing outright, if not for some Marine from nearby Camp Lejune who started making his pecs dance while he was modeling. The wet t-shirt contest was immediately after that, and when the gratuitous nudity was done with, Nick made a beeline for the girl who had won the competition. I watched from a safe distance to see how he'd do, and was surprised to see him get himself shot down inside of 30 seconds. More about exactly why in future posts. Undaunted, Nick moved on the second- place runner up, only to get shot down by her almost as fast. This continued for a while until the girl who'd been boo'd offstage during the contest laughed in his face and walked away. Meanwhile, my experiences hadn't been much better- all the girls I'd ended up talking to only wanted to tell me about their last 5 boyfriends, or ask me why they couldn't just find a nice guy like me instead of all the assholes that were at the club. I saw several of those girls later making out with the same assholes they were complaining about to me earlier. Go figure. 

At last call, Nick and I beat a hasty retreat back to our hotel room. Yes, we'd come home empty- handed, but we'd seen some naked breasts, and had even had the chance to grind on some half- naked chicks for a few minutes before they looked over their shoulders and moved away quickly. As we headed back to Charleston the next evening, our friendship was sealed, and the stage was set for what would be one of the most eventful, drama- filled years of our lives.


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Tiger In A Cage

May 2017

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