Boxes: Why I saved a cocktail napkin for 22 years
Even though Spring is long gone this year, I'm still surrounded by old boxes. They're hanging out in all corners of my place, begging for my organizational attention.
Some are filled with books I need to place on shelves I need to buy. Other boxes hold CDs, DVDs, hand-written letters, and various office space collectibles, like the mystery cords tangled up with one another, I can't bring myself to toss.
This November marks the one-year anniversary that I moved out on my own, away from Kevin and the perfectly safe life we shared. Kevin is an amazing guy, and treated me like a princess, so what the hell was I thinking, breaking it off with him? The answer is simple - as much as I love him, and hard as I tried - I just wasn't in love. And as scary as it was to leave him, it was even more so, living a life with someone I knew wasn't meant for me.
Kevin and I are amazing friends, and I'm so grateful for our time together.
What is it about women who only go for bad boys (or girls)? Is it that famous Groucho Marx quote: "I never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member"?
I've never been good at taking compliments. Part of me believes them, while mostly, I'm just confused. I linger in-between their words of praise, searching for elements of fiction, while secretly wanting to believe in myself long enough to realize what their saying might possibly be true.
When it comes to knowing ourselves, why can't some of us see what others do? Why do we fall back on the fear of believing in what others know to be true?
If not filled with books, letters, or office junk, the rest of my boxes are filled with photos. Hundreds, if not thousands of misty, water-colored memories, piled to the gills, in no chronological order. They are the Kodachrome medley of my life's experiences. Every time I sit to organize them, I end up lost in a maze of snapshots, listening to Billy Joel, frozen in time. Those are some of the best moments I've ever shared in solitude.
The other day, I came across something I forgot I even had. It was mixed in with my photos, just waiting to be read; a tattered cocktail napkin from Dan, a waiter from my stripping days.
Dan was older than me, and one of the sweetest dudes I knew, which is saying a lot, because my take on men wasn't great back then. Strippers are typically surrounded by guys who we don't see in a positive light. There's Mr. Married, who wants to sleep with you, Mr. Starving Student who tries to see you naked for free, then there's Mr. Cheat, who's dating your co-worker, but tries to get in your g-string every chance he gets.
Dan wasn't any of those. He moved to Hawaii from Minneapolis, and was earning his law degree during the day, while serving cocktails every night at the club. Whenever I was on stage, Dan took a break from walking the floor, and found a booth in the back to watch me. After every set, he stood up, applauding and whistling, getting the crowd pumped. I knew he liked me just from our conversations, but it wasn't until finding this napkin, that I realized how much:
I see the smile - Its half way there - I wonder if - It really care - So many faces - So many times - I guess the smile - Comes from the rhyme...it's still an ass kicking smile
I remember Dan writing this, as he watched me on stage. After emerging from the dressing room, I saw him standing by the bar, nervous and kind. I read it out loud in front of him, and felt embarrassed. What did he see? I thought. Another compliment I struggled to believe.
But even then, in the thick of self-doubt and insecurity, there was something inside me that knew - something that made me hold on to this piece of paper for 22 years. It's the same thing that helped me break away from Kevin, knowing I wasn't living in my truth. The same force that keeps me believing I am worth more than my the sum of my fears.
We all have pieces of personal history that remind us how far we've come. And sometimes, they echo what we knew all along, but were hidden behind our youth. If I knew Dan's last name, I'd look him up to thank him for being such an integral part of mine.