Fixed Points in Time

“I wanted to ask if you wanted me to stay but I didn’t want people – or you – to think it was because you were drunk.”

Time travelers talk about fixed points; times and events in history that can not be changed. In working through this blog, I have come across a few of those moments. Moments when something happened and I can trace the butterfly effect through the rest of my timeline.

I was in my first apartment. Technically, a townhouse. It was student housing on the university campus but, for the most part, we had all the freedoms we would have had in a regular apartment. Read: we could have parties. With alcohol. And we did. For my 22nd birthday, my roommates and I hosted a blowout. It didn’t start out that way but it definitely ended that way. The first people – Cameron – crossed the threshold between 9 and 10pm and the last one – Cameron – left after 3am.

I had thought I had a pretty good handle on things… until I saw pictures and there were people I didn’t remember being there. But I was proud of the fact that there was no drama, no tears, no fighting. We lost one of my roommates, a couple of times, but every time we found her again and returned her to her bed.

Cameron was one of the first people through the door that night. I had already started drinking at dinner with my roommates and I was ready for more. This little Irish girl is a walking stereotype. Or was. When I was doing it regularly, I could put away my weight in whiskey. Or rum or vodka. And I had all three lined up that night.

I am not sure, exactly, when the liquid courage kicked in but at some point, early in the night, I poured my heart out to Cameron. I confessed the crush I’d had on him since the first time we met, two years before. To which he blithely replied that he knew.

Years later, when we were waist deep in whatever long distance relationship mess we had gotten ourselves into, he told me that he had known all along that I liked him. But even with that revelation, I only recently remembered that he had told me that night.

I told you. I was several sheets to the wind at this point.

We hung out the rest of the night. Anyone who didn’t know (and some who did) wondered if we were coupling because we were together, if not physically touching, for the duration of the party. Until the last person left (before him). As things were winding down, with eight or ten people left of the sixty or more that filtered through, a couple people playing some incarnation of Mario on my roommate’s Nintendo, Cameron sat on the arm of our couch and I laid across his leg, one arm draped over and my head laying on that.

My remaining two roommates bowed out and went upstairs to their rooms. The last remaining guests filtered out the door and Cameron excused himself to the bathroom. Not quite ready to call it a night – at 3am – I set about picking up some of the big pieces. When he came back out, I told him I was going out for one last cigarette; did he want to join me? He said he’d had enough but he’d stand outside with me.

As I finished smoking, he “remembered” that he’d left his jacket inside. Back in the warmth and light of my living room, we stood facing one another, less than a foot separating us. My heart and brain – and if I’m honest, my hormones – argued over whether or not to invite him to stay.

“You’ve been stuck to him all night,” my heart said, “and he’s still here. He wants to stay.”

“You’re still drunk,” my brain argued, “he’ll never know if you wanted him to stay because of that.”

“But look at that body,” my hormones offered. “Do you really want to send THAT home?”

“Don’t you want to fully enjoy your first time together, without anything clouding your perception?” And Brain wins the debate. And he hugged me goodnight and went back to his dorm.

That night was a fixed point in my timeline. Sending Cameron back to his room without sex is a point from where I can trace everything that happened after that. If he had stayed, David’s jealousy over seeing me smoking with Cameron’s singer between their sets might have been directed at Cameron instead. If he had stayed, I might have never met Israel. I might have never slept with Israel.

If I’d never slept with Israel, we likely wouldn’t have had the relationship we had. I might have ended up in California with Cameron. We might still be out there. If Israel hadn’t broken my heart, I might have never discovered the band Kill Hannah or met all of the people I met because of them. I can link a great deal of what has happened in my life over the last decade to that moment when I decided not to invite Cameron to spend the night in my bed.

So much of what has happened in the interim has been good. I’ve met amazing people. But sometimes I wonder how it would have been different.

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How the Cameron Saga Came to a Head

“I’ll need a place to crash,” he said, “I can pay you back with food, beer, or sex. Personally, I’d pick sex.”

We hadn’t talked in a couple years. After I had graduated and moved back to my “hometown,” we had lost track of one another. But then, there he was, in my email. He assumed, because we had partied together throughout university, that I had the lock on where he and I could find a good party for the Memorial Day weekend, should he come into town for it.

Plans changed and he ended up back with his old band to play a birthday party for the guy who owned the bar where they had played while we were all still in school.

I didn’t hear from him again for a couple months.

And then another couple months after that.

The pattern was bizarre but I rolled with it. I was on the uphill climb from what had been a soul-crushing break up and the idea of rebound sex wasn’t even remotely unpleasant. Especially rebound sex with Cameron. Considering Israel had been, in a way, revenge sex while I was still into Cameron (the first time around…).

So, I let him shoot me a random email every once in a while and tried to fight back all of my old feelings. Rebound sex, I kept telling myself.

“What’s he doing in L.A.?” My Little Sister had taken it upon herself to stalk his social media as I told her about what had been going on.

“L.A.?”

“Yeah, it says he lives in L.A.”

And just like that, a complicated situation got 1000% more complicated. I swept it under the rug, figuring it was probably something I should have figured out sooner and bringing it up this late in the game might seem a little weird. And we were talking, now, with a fair amount of regularity. Three or four nights a week, mostly through an instant messenger but we had exchanged phone numbers as well.

“What’s up?” A standard “I’m bored, let’s chat” opening text message.

“Nothing. You?” You, not U, because I have never gotten on board with text speak.

“Just hanging out at a bar. Bored.” He’s texting me from a bar. On a Saturday night. In Los Angeles. He’s not bored, he’s hooked.

I let it go for a few days.

“What are we doing? I’m not pushing anything, I just want to make sure everything is out in the open.” Following Saturday’s text message, I had a good idea what we were doing, but I wanted to hear it from him. “Are we just talking about something physical, or are we looking at something more?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.” He admitted. “I guess we should try the physical, first. If that doesn’t work, will ‘something more’ really work? With the distance?”

This came close to a year after his initial offer of sexual favors in exchange for a place to crash after partying with me. Looking back on it, and on the revealing Saturday night text message, we had already progressed to “something more,” we just hadn’t had the conversation.

The strange song and dance that was our relationship continued for another six months. We talked almost daily, about everything. Music, recalled things that had happened while we were in university – a lot of which was him telling me things I would have never known otherwise – the standard “how was your day?” conversations, just to say we had talked that day. And we talked about sex. A lot.

“I got your email.” He had been logged in to the messenger we used, waiting for me when I got there.

I replied with a wink 😉 and asked him what he thought.

“I opened it at work.”

I was intrigued. “Did you read it at work?” I imagined him in the back office of a Los Angeles location of a major musical instrument retail chain, a noticeable bulge in the front of black slacks.

“No. I closed it when I figured out what it was.”

I was disappointed. “But you read it later.”

It was his turn to wink. “I did.” He told me he couldn’t wait to try some of it out.

Thanksgiving was coming soon. He had made plans to return to Colorado to spend a week with his family. His sister would be home on leave from the military and he wanted to spend time with her. But he wanted to spend time with me, too. We set it up. I had a four-day weekend from work. He’d come up Friday and spend Friday and Saturday with me.

A week left to go. After 18 months of talking about all of the things we wanted to do to one another, we were a week from doing them.

“I have to ask you a question.”

“Shoot.”

“If we sleep together, are you going to go crazy?” Those were the last words Cameron, the gorgeous, intelligent, talented skateboarding guitarist accountant, ever had the privilege to say to me.

Cameron – part 1

Music is one of the most powerful memory triggers. When you chase musicians, the way I do, that’s even more true.

Even though more than a decade has passed whenever I hear that one song, on the radio or anywhere out in the world, I am back in that basement, leaning against a pool table, watching him dominate his sleek, black lacquered guitar.

Cameron was everything that I was attracted to.* Five and a half feet tall, on a good day, thin but fit… He wore his hair short and clean cut but roughed up and spiked on top. He and his friends spent all of their free time skateboarding around our university campus and even though I never would have said it to any of them at the time, he was easily the best out of all of them (read also: spent the most time on his feet and landed most of his tricks). And he played that guitar like he deserved to be paid for it.

I had just gotten out of a meeting in the upper level of the same building and was headed to the café in the basement when I heard the guitar of one of my favorite songs. I followed the sound to find him, jamming on his guitar, seemingly unaware that anyone else was around. He was supposed to be working but had clearly decided that that particular Tuesday evening was a good time to get paid to practice a couple songs before the rest of the band showed up. They used the basement space where he worked for rehearsals after he closed it down.

I forgot all about the dinner I had been looking for.

I leaned against one of the dozen pool tables and watched. I watched the way his small frame danced around. The way the sleek finish of the guitar reflected the lights in the room and fit so comfortably against him. The way his thin fingers expertly moved across the fret board.

Emily had joined me and when he finished the song, we applauded.

From that day on, even now, I can still see him in that basement, surrounded by pool tables and arcade games.

Years later, he told me he had always known how I felt about him. Sometimes I wonder if that was the moment when he figured it out.

* Truth be told, his type, or the type that he was back then, still kind of makes me weak.