How I Got Here

Is it possible to stop sweating? Like, your body doesn’t have any more moisture to put out? I feel like the beads of sweat on my body have to peter out eventually, but it doesn’t show signs of stopping. It’s me against the sun, and even though the sun is so far away, it seems like it’s winning.

My friend George (who’s actually a girl named “Georgia”) had this thing she taught me in high school called mind maps. She started doing them in Advanced Placement European History on the blank maps that we got of the Baltic countries and the Netherlands, drawing in her own fanciful versions of mountains and rivers that would have driven any self-respecting cartographer crazy. Then she’d draw where her rambling thoughts went – starting out someplace neutral and then, as her thoughts became more tangled, heading out into the forest. When her thoughts veered someplace sexual, they tromped through rivers. When she was reaching some place of higher thought, she drew paths to the top of her triangular mountains.

At the end of the period, she’d hand over her mind map and I’d be able to parse out how her mind jumped from cartoons she watched that morning with her little brother to the way her shoes were pinching her pinky toes, then hopped her way to foot fetishes and why people end up hating their spouses.

I had a big crush on George back in high school. I can remember how she looked every day and how she acted, and I can remember lingering after a class so that I would make sure to walk out of the classroom with her, maybe offer her my company to her next class, maybe hold her books (so classy, so old-fashioned).

If I was going to start my own map of how I got here, sucking on this flat stone in the middle of the salt flats, I think I’d start there. I was going to start back two weeks ago, in that survival class where I ended up flirting with the girl sitting next to me rather than listening to the survival guy (bearded, of course) talk on about how to find water in the desert, but that wouldn’t be quite right, because I only started flirting with her because my ex-girlfriend Elise told me she had found somebody else, and I was hoping she would be one of those girls who would always hold the torch for me.

The sky is far too blue here. Even through my sunglasses.

It definitely starts with George, because that was also when I started having a car to drive around in, and that meant I had the freedom and power and ability to choose where I went and who I went there with, which meant I chose to give George rides, much to her boyfriend’s chagrin. I remember trying to kiss her outside her family’s apartment, and thinking when I got home (lips unkissed) that I wanted to give her everything and yet she wanted none of it.

And then from there, I started dating Mirah, who was beautiful and kissed me a lot, even in public, which I thought was great, but she didn’t do anything like show me how to make mind maps or explain how to peel oranges in one continuous peel (another talent of George’s) and that’s when I first learned that it’s unfair to compare girls to one another, but also learned that it’s impossible to not.

It didn’t matter anyway because I called Mirah “George” and she thought I was gay, even though she knew my best friend, as I referred to her, was named George. From there, the map would take me to that girl I made out with at the only high school party I went to, who I kissed because George was there, and she had come with me but was going to leave with someone else, someone who wasn’t her boyfriend, which meant that it’s not that she didn’t want to cheat on Paul, she just didn’t want to cheat on Paul with me.

Then, that would take me to college and that letter that I got from George where she told me all about her new boyfriend Henry, and his british-ness, which led me to Kelly, and her total lack of redeeming qualities other than her willingness to sleep with me. And when Kelly realized how bored she made me, I got lonely and flew to George and she didn’t kiss me (again) but we did hold hands while we ate ice cream, which was probably the nicest moment I’d had with a girl since, well, her. So I remember trying to find other girls who felt nice to hold hands and eat ice cream with.

George made mind maps. I make girl maps, and I guess that means that my mind is full of girls, and I’m just some sort of steel pinball, bouncing around, always returning down the hole where George stayed, which I guess is like the ball returning home.

After my nice moment with George, I dated Miranda, and then Elise, and that happened at the same time, and I was juggling both of them which left no time for me to think about George, or so I thought. But Miranda found out about Elise and broke up with me, and then Elise found my letters to George and broke up with me, and I can remember that’s when I decided I need a change, I needed to learn how to survive on my own.

But then that girl in survival class looked sort of like George and made me feel better about myself than Elise ever did, and we flirted and I thought about her instead of surviving so all I took from that class was to suck on a rock if you get thirsty and don’t have water.

And here I am, surviving, but my map is useless.

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