Valentina Bound - Book 1

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Isn’t it Ironic

Just like every lecture Benji gives me, it sits and festers. When it’s a good lecture, great things come of it. When it’s a seed for a spiky fruit tree, it grows painfully.

“Fucking Benji!” I scream to myself as I struggle to go to sleep.

I text Tommy when I am home, he likes to know I made it home safe. Yet no text from him. Maybe he is asleep? I wouldn’t know, I don’t know what time zone he is in. He turned on his “read/receipt” so I know when he reads my messages. But that only makes it worse when I see that my message has been delivered and not read. Several friends in high school were those annoying girlfriends that would stalk their boyfriend’s Instagram or FaceBook. Tommy and I agree that we just avoid those scenarios all together. Anything we need to know about each other, we tell each other. We send each other photos so we don’t have to go on line to look. Thanks to Benji, I am questioning the “we tell each other” part of all of this. It’s been a need to know only basis. Which innately feels good to me, I don’t like oversharing myself. But with that being said, I have nothing to over share. He knows exactly where I am and who I am with every minute of my day, my life is routine. That and the fact that he is very much in my social circle and pattern.

I should text Benji and keep him up since it’s his fault that I can’t sleep. But then he would know, and he already knows too much. Instead, I keep checking my phone, playing Candy Crush in between. The “delivered” doesn’t change to “read”. Luckily, Candy Crush lulls me to sleep. But then I am up at 7:00 am, still no text. Do I text him again? I don’t want to be that girl. The irony is, he is turning me into that girl.

I get up and start typing. Maybe I can work out my problems into an article to send to Jessica. She did say she wants me to explore beyond Wanderlust, so maybe I can write for Psychology Today. Worse, maybe my tragic moment can make the pages of Cosmo.

Do men make us crazy on purpose or accident? I have to admit, that before I bothered with dating, I was always a bit judgmental about “crazy girl” behavior. Being a bartender I’ve seen it all. And I have to say, a drunk upset woman does often come across as the crazy one.

So which is it women, are some of us just nuts, hormonal as society likes to label us, or do men make us this way because of their actions? We are told from birth that boys and girls are different. We write books to psycho analyze the difference: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Brainsex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, or Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps. This way as adults we can tell our brain that we are for sure different. News flash, no two people are the same.

So, if no two people are the same, how do we learn to speak each other’s language. Do we take for granted that just because we both speak English, that we actually understand each other’s English? When you look up any word in the dictionary, you find that there are many definitions to each word. Does this mean when I say a word, it may be misinterpreted depending on how the person listening hears the word? Now expand that to the concept of moments. When you and I stand in a room, do we experience that moment the same? The outcome of this span of time is influenced by our personalities, mood, viewpoints and our own personal growth.

For instance, my sister and I grew up in the same house, with the same parents and we are both even female in gender. Yet we could not be two more opposite people. So is it that men and women are different or am I different from all men because I am different from all other humans period.

The best part of these types of articles is that they are based solely on the knowledge of the writer. Whether the knowledge is from personal experience, or in my case, a lot of reading and watching podcasts and Ted Talks. Either way, I can only educate the audience to the best of my knowledge. And after my research, I don’t feel any more of an expert in my life and I definitely should not advise others. I tell myself this is just a writing exercise. Proof read my work, site my sources and send it off to Jessica. Slightly irritated that I still can’t get Benji out of my head.

After noon on Sunday, I finally get a text, “I’m alive.”

What do I respond to this? “Yay”? The “Yay” emoji? Don’t respond at all? Pretend I don’t care? Obviously I do, I am already giving it too much air time in my mind. If it weren’t for Benji fucking up my brain to begin with, I would ask his advice on what to do. But imagine the field day he would have with this one. Instead I decide to run it out. I turn off my phone, grab my iPod and head out. The oldies but goodies blaring in my head: I love Rock-n-Roll, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Isn’t It Ironic, this is when I stop running and face the music. I think about the irony of it all, relationships; punishment or irony? That will be my next writing exercise.

I try dancing. There is a pop-in adult inspired dance class at the ballet studio down the street. Dancing always makes everything better. That and champagne. So dancing first, champagne after.

When I get back, I fight with myself, do I turn on the phone? Do I want to know? I technically don’t have to. Any issues with my family, they would have called my house phone and left a message. Any issues with Benji, he would be at my place pacing or if he were the one in trouble, Jodi would be at our place pacing. If the Rock burned down, I would see the flames. Everyone knows that the phone is the last thing I look to for anything, says the computer science major. I may like to build apps and gadgets, but I am not a fan of them in my own personal life. The less I know, the better. What is it they say about silence? “Silence is true wisdom's best reply”, I don’t even know who said it. I like to say that silence is the best sign of intelligence. The part that I did not account for is the fact that my attempt at silence is only making the voices in my head louder.

“THIS is why I don’t date!” I scream in the shower.

“What?” Jodi screams back.

Shit! I didn’t hear her come in. Hopefully she didn’t hear me. The only person that lectures me worse than Benji is Jodi. Again, the irony, Miss “no relationship is perfect, it all takes work.” Let me tell you how she would like to alter the state of my relationship to make it “oh so perfect.”

I find it very amusing that everyone that hated single me is just as quick to fuck with my relationship status. I decide to day is a good day for a very long shower, wash it all away. Cleanse my mind, body and soul of all this drama.

I hide out in my room until I hear Jodi leave. It’s bad enough that I have to go to work in a few hours and listen to Mikey and potentially Benji. Sitting on my bed, staring at my phone. I can’t even turn on my laptop at this point, any messages will pop up on the messenger on my laptop. Or again worse, the lack of a message. I am so pissed right now. Pissed at myself for letting this happen to me and pissed that Benji is always messing with my mind. I know some of it is jealousy, but most of it, he is right. How can this be a good thing? Tommy is lord who knows where. I have just chalked it up to me being in the moment and taking things day by day. But now that I really think about it, I should be curious as to who he might be with. What he might be doing. I mean, he could easily have anther girlfriend. Am I dating a sociopath?

“Okay Val, too many episodes of Mindhunter.” I lecture myself.

I take a deep breath and turn on my phone. No text. I turn my phone back off and take a nap before work. This is all so exhausting.

“Hey Mikey.”

“Hello beautiful. Miss me?”

Mikey had yesterday off, he is starting to take classes on Saturdays. I like to think it’s my good nagging skills that finally got him there. But something tells me that as you let people come into your lives and watch them all move on, eventually you want to move on too.

“Of course I miss you.”

“I miss you, like everyday. Wanna be with you, but you're away. Said I miss you, missing you insane. But if I got with you, could it feel the same…” Mikey sings.

We have a lot of cute things between us, one being that if we say a line that leads into a random song, we sing it. Usually we both know the song and other times we are both delighted to learn a new song. Either way, it’s fun. We both actually have nice voices. It’s our Plan B, if I don’t make it in New York, I will come back and he and I will start a band.

“How is class going?” If I make it about him, maybe I can avoid the conversation turning to me.

“Class is fun, I am meeting new and interesting people and I have to say Val, you are right?”

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah, you heard right. You are correct, I am smarter than I give myself credit for.”

“Of course you are. Just because we are born into one mindset doesn’t mean we are limited. One thing I liked at bible school was the message that the one thing that seperated us from the Angels was free will. We have a choice.”

“Thank you therapist Val. Wait? They let you in Sunday School?" We both laugh. "Now, how is my buddy Val?”

“I am pretty fantastic. Did a little writing, jogged a few miles and took a dance class; all before noon.”

“Uh-oh!”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Sounds like someone is trying to work out something by over working out.”

“Sounds like someone is over thinking my life.”

“Hey now little lady, don’t take what ever you are upset about on me. I am not the enemy, I am your ally.”

“Sorry.”

“Look Val, I know that we are all giving you a hard time about Tommy. That’s because we love you. It’s also because we are all putting our own issues into it, which is wrong. But I hope you know that I am always here for you. And the worse thing you can do let it work itself in your head. That’s very dangerous.”

“This is the drama that I was trying to avoid by not dating anyone.”

“Baby girl, this is life. Even you and I have our tit-for-tats, doesn’t mean we end our friendship or that it’s DRAMA. Disagreeing is just that. And look at how your persistence with me to school turned out. This is how relationships work, we work at each other, help each other. Benji, Jodi and I know this is your first real situation, we are just trying to help.”

“But it’s annoying because there is a helping me, then there is making me feel like I am doing it all wrong.”

“I can own that. We all can only give advice up to our own fucked self.”

“Well now you all have me a f*ed up.”

“Look baby girl, just stick with honesty, you can’t go wrong with honesty. The next time you see your guy, just ask him, what is his version of your story together.”

“Looks like you are getting smarter every class.”

We both laugh, I do feel better now that I have talked out some of my frustrations about all of this. Now I know why people love to talk to us bartenders. Talking it all out helps so much, but with that being said, talking to my friends isn’t always the best idea. Maybe I need to find a bar I can go to whenever I need to talk out my problems.

“Why don’t you try sending him a text and ask him how he is doing? Don’t sit here and assume. You know what they say about assuming.”

"Mikey, you should major in psychology or philosophy, you are a wise old soul."

“I am going to become a Life Coach, it’s the new thing. Plus I don’t have to take State Board Exams like I would if became a psychologist. And follow all those archaic rules.”

"Doesn’t matter what you wants to be when you grow up, it’s nice seeing you excited about your future."

“I am learning in my class about the language of love.”

“OMG, did you just say that? You are too corny!”

“Get your mind out of the gutter woman.”

“Sorry,” trying not to laugh.

“Just like there are multiple dialects spoken all over the world, there are different love languages. So you have to figure out how you speak love.”

“What does it mean if I prefer you stop saying the word love?”

“It means you are still twisted sister.”

“Oh we're not gonna take it. No, we ain't gonna take it. Oh we're not gonna take it anymore. We’ve got the right to choose it. There ain't no way we'll lost it. This is our life, this is our song.” I start singing the song by Twisted Sister.

“You need to find your way to some therapy woman.”

“So they all keep saying.”

The bar starts to fill up, I am glad. Sometimes living in the fantasy that is my mind is just where I need to be. I much prefer to listen to the problems of others than have the focus on me.

“Hey Boss.”

“What’s wrong baby?”

“Why do you ask if something is wrong?”

“Because when ever you need a daddy/daughter moment, you hang out in my kitchen.”

“Am I that obvious.”

“Look baby, one of the things I love most about you is consistency. My most reliable employee. With consistency is predictability. Again, makes you my most reliable worker to date.”

“Boy troubles.”

“All boys are trouble. Anything you do with a boy will always equate to trouble. Know that, accept it, and watch yourself.”

“Thanks Boss, you are the best!”

That made absolutely no sense to me, but I know Boss meant well. I also know if I take the time to hear what he said over and over again, it would eventually be exactly what I needed to hear. Boss is like that prophet they seek in mystic movies, you can’t understand what they really mean but since it’s fiction, they can make everything work out in the end.

The night is the perfect normal Triple Rock night. All my friends here around the pool table. I spank Benji as often as possible, my safe way of punishing him for being a shitty friend. The bar is busy, the stories are funny and distracting and it’s all very much everything that I need right now. I don’t even realize that I have not turned on my phone. It’s well past midnight when the crowd starts to thin down. I finally turn on my phone.

“Hey babe!”

“Sorry I had such a bad hangover, I went back to bed.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Are you ok? Do I need to call Mikey, Boss or hospitals?”

“Did you block me?”

“Please baby, don’t do this to me. I love you so much!!! I can’t imaging life without you. I am sorry. Whatever it is I did wrong, I am so sorry.”

“I am on my way.”

Just as I read his last text, Tommy storms through the doors. Well, one thing I know is, wherever he was, it is in driving distance. Of course, unless he has a private plane. I am in the back, in the kitchen. He doesn’t see me but I see him. Do I make him suffer a bit? I can see that Mikey is talking to him. God Bless Mikey, he is stalling on my behalf. Boss is staring Tommy down from the bar. The pool table halted. Everyone has stopped playing. Ok, I need to leave this kitchen, it’s starting to look like the scene of a bad romantic comedy.

“Tommy!”

I rush up to Tommy. I can smell yesterday on him still. This is a very different Tommy than I am used to. There is no doubt he loves his scotch as much as I love my champagne but we both have always handled our liquor. So now all the suspicions of my friends rises in my body and my heart starts to feel pain. The pain radiates from my heart throughout my body. It’s so intense, all I want to do is run and scream. I want to hate him right now so badly. I know. I may have no evidence, but I know. The anger rises from the ground, through my feet and up my body. What grounded me as of late is setting all of me on fire.

I grab Tommy’s arm and lead him outside.

“I think you should leave.”

“No baby. I don’t want to leave. I never want to leave.”

“Are you still drunk?”

“I may have started drinking again when you blocked me.”

“I didn’t block you.”

“But none of my message was going through.”

“Because I turned off my phone?”

“Why would you do that?”

“What does it matter? I turned off my phone for less than a day yet you disappear for days as you please. And when you do, I don’t go off and get stinking drunk and cause a scene at your family home.”

“Because it matters, you wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t mad at me. Are you mad at me?”

Tommy is too drunk to even bother with. I can’t talk any sense into him.

“Baby, I just needed a day of silence so I could catch up on work. I am going to order you an Uber. Go home. Sleep. We can talk in the morning.”

“Can’t I just go to your place until you get home?”

“Tommy, you need to sleep on this. We can’t accomplish anything with you in this state.”

“I want to talk it out, please. I will sleep it off at your place and we can talk when you get home.”

My face falls into my hands as my mind tires, this is not what I need to be dealing with right now. I can feel my head starting to hurt. You would think that I am the one nursing the hangover. I don't want to fight with Tommy here and now but I also don’t want to fight with him in a few hours when I’m home. In this moment, I just want it all to go away. To be able to turn back the clock to that second day and stick to my rule of one night only. I should have never let things get this far.

“I’ll take him.” Jodi’s voice behind me.

I am not sure how long she has been standing there, but I am relieved that she is there. Jodi my behave like my mom on most days, but she has always been there when I needed her most, like right now.

The Uber pulls up as she speaks.

“Go with Jodi and Wynn. I will hurry home.” I mouth a “thank you” to Jodi.

Jodi and Wynn help Tommy into the Uber. Now I get to go and face the eyes of Benji, Mikey and Boss. A big inhalation moves me back into the bar; head held high and a smile on my face. If I avoid eye contact I may get back to my station before having to talk to anyone. Never has the distance between the front door to the bar could seem so long. In my peripheral vision I can see the three men glancing at one another, as if to gauge who should talk to me.

“Just ignore them, talk to the customers, laugh,” I tell myself. “If you laugh and look like all is great, maybe they will leave you alone.”

Listening to my laugh makes me want to cry, I could not be more fake. In a professional setting, I know better than to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I look to see who I can start a conversation with who might be kind of funny. At the end of the bar is a group of truckers, they come through here a lot and stay at the motel down the street. A real nice bunch of men, and they always have great stories. Nothing gets a group of men talking and laughing than a round of shots. I walk over with a bottle of whiskey and pour out shots.

“Cheers!” We all toast and throw back our glasses.

The heat of whiskey is always so nice. Of course the scent as it hit my nose before I took the shot made me miss Tommy. His kiss is as smooth and draws up the heat of whiskey. Reaching for the Mccallan, I pour myself a glass, bringing me a little closer to Tommy. Mccallan sweetens his lips and lingers after they have left mine. A long sigh leaves my chest.

“What’s up sweetheart.” Joe, one of the drivers, catches on to my game.

“Nothing is wrong Joe, all good here.”

“Girl, you can’t lie to save your life. Plus, I was walking by outside and caught you in your situation.”

“No situation, just a drunk guy friend.”

“Wow, you can’t even call him your boyfriend.” Mikey calls me out.

Where did he come from? I really need to pay more attention to who is in eavesdropping range these days.

“So that was your boyfriend out there?” Joe asks.

“He is a guy I am hanging out with a lot these days.”

Both Joe and Mikey look at one another and nod. I look at both of them and shake my head. Men and their secret conversations without saying anything. Now they are both looking at me. This makes me laugh. Either that or it’s the second shot of Mccallan I just took.

“I hope your boyfriend is paying for those.” Boss teases.

Now we are just missing Benji, oh, spoke too soon, look who is walking over. This is one of those scenes in that TV show, Intervention, I just know it. These men are about to run interference between Tommy and I. I can feel the anger in my body rising, or is that the heat of the scotch. No matter, I am getting heated so I need to go before I start a big scene with these boys.

“Stop right there.” I put out my hands to the gang in front of me. “I am taking myself home before I say anything I regret to any of you, or worse, at any of you.”

The men parted as if they were the Red Sea, I walk past as quickly as possible and call an Uber. The cold air knocks the wind out of me. Suddenly I am breathing rapidly and heavily, trying to catch my breath. Is this a panic attack? No, it must be the air, the night has cooled down a lot. That unpredictable Bay Area weather.

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