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More than a dozen years ago, when I was still living in Texas, and still in school, and my grandparents were still alive, I used to spend my late nights and early mornings on various message boards and chatrooms. I was far away from all of my real life friends, and so I found a batch of digital surrogates. 

On one of the boards, which I joined because a friend from the chatroom I frequented was a member, I became friends with this girl who lived in Kansas. We talked a lot, and had a lot of mutual musical interests, and swapped mix tapes (me) and CDs (her). And, because I was…what, 22, and lonely, I developed a kind of crush on her. I don’t really know if it was mutual or not. Possibly. 

Anyway, maybe a month after my grandmother died, I packed up my stuff and made, at this girl’s invitation, the ten-hour drive to Topeka. I met her and we hit it off fairly well, which was a relief to me, because you never know how those situations will work out. It was a fun couple of days: we went to Manhattan and Lawrence, cool college towns that felt to me, a rube from the sticks, like I was in some impossibly hip and cosmopolitan surroundings. I ate Greek food for the first time, and we listened to the Violent Femmes while driving across the wide and empty plains of America’s flattest state. We saw Richard Buckner at the Bottleneck in Lawrence: a pivotal experience for me.

The last night I was there, we went to some bar and played poker with, among others, her sort-of boyfriend: when I say “sort of” it was because he actually had a real girlfriend, and kept my friend on the side, and made all sorts of excuses as to why he couldn’t break up with the other girl. I disliked him immediately. 

Shortly after I made my way back home, she had some kind of weird freakout on the message board, which really only consisted of maybe a dozen people, all of whom had become very close, and left. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think it had something to do with people giving her some advice she didn’t want to hear about the sort-of boyfriend. 

Not long after, I was talking to her on instant messenger, only to realize that it wasn’t her, but rather the boyfriend, who was, it turns out, upset that she apparently hadn’t told him I was coming to visit, which set off all sorts of jealous feelings in him: classic signs of a controlling asshole, right? I assured him that nothing untoward had happened–and it hadn’t: I’d slept on the couch, as chaste as could be–and while she and I talked a couple of more times afterward, it was always sort of strained, and it wasn’t long before we lost all contact with each other. 

The other night, in one of those piques of nostalgia that sometimes wash over us, I did a little internet research and, surprisingly easily, found her: she still lives in Topeka, and got married–not to the boyfriend, thank god–sometime in 2011. It’s so strange, how we can make these connections, and how quickly we can lose them, and stranger still how easily we could re-establish them–there they are, that person you felt such ties to, there they are, right there–but instead, knowing better, knowing some things are, in spite of how simple it seems to resurrect them, so far gone they might as well have happened to another person, we remain mute. 

She really loved the Jayhawks. We both did. 

Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done. 💕

Ms. DAKOTA GONZALEZ

Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades. A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude, and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.