Entropy is the word to describe the world’s unexplainable need to plunge into chaos. Chemists have even found a way to measure it in chemical reactions. To quantitatively evaluate matter’s desire to be a fucking mess. Can you measure the chaos of a person, a life, human connection? Two beings full of so much matter and energy, chemical reactions running the otherwise lifeless sack of bones and meat. Can you imagine the chaos that ensues when their force fields meet?
How much chaos lies in the first encounter? Is it sporadic or is it guarded? Does the chaos of one tug on the well-ordered of the other? Do the atoms that escape from the lips dance together harmoniously, or do they battle for space? The energy released by the firing of neurons, where does that go? Is it that heat that makes her palms sweat, that energy that causes him to tap his foot? Is the body really just doing the best it can to release pent up entropy? Is it our need for explanation that causes us to label it nervousness, shyness, unsureness? Maybe that chaos can be labeled “adorable” or “cute”. When all that energy and all that matter from two beings collide in a single space, how dare we brand it so simple?
The second time they meet. Maybe it’s deliberate, a social gathering, a party, a date. What is that energy and matter doing then? Is it still disordered, still nervous? Or is that space a little more familiar now? Calmer. The neurons are firing a little slower this time around, thoughts are more concise, planned. More time is spent listening and understanding. Observing, reading, analyzing. The second date the chaos is internal, a mess of tangled thoughts in a brain without enough space. The present stimuli mixed in with every past experience similar to this.
I try to tell myself that it’s just a party, just a boy, no big deal, but I can’t get the unrelenting reel of anxiety to shut up. My mind is overrun by entropy and neurons running at too fast of a speed. Overthinking every word that comes out of his mouth and every micro expression that presents itself on his seemingly kind face. Does he talk the same way as so-and-so? Why does he look at me like that? What does it mean? Is he lying? They’re always lying. But, what if he’s not? What if what he is saying is true? What if he really wants to get to know you?
I do not know this man, but I have known many men. I am relieved when he stumbles, drunk, to the next group of people, thanking them all for being there to celebrate his birthday. I find myself a safe place to observe, not just him, but all that surrounds him. His house, an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Idaho. Five acres littered with old, wooden structures, broken down cars, and tonight, a party entourage. Those who he values and cares about. The company you keep says a lot about you. They are all drunk, that’s for sure, but they appear kind. Friendly competition and cheering at the beer pong table, amplified by the carport they are packed into. Warm smiles and laughter surround the fire in the middle of the yard. Some of the guys are trying to a find a girl to talk to, but they’re reluctant. The girls are all hanging out in packs of two or more, or clung onto the arm of an assumed boyfriend. I would be intimidated too.
I know I should try to mingle with the crowd more, but I don’t care to, not in this environment. Nothing I say will be remembered properly and I’m unsure of what to say in the first place. When I’ve finished people watching, I reluctantly leave my safe place, find a beer and walk around until I find the only other people I know besides the birthday boy. They are a couple, been together about six months now and in my opinion, quite perfect for each other. I don’t even speak to them, I just stand in their general vicinity, next to the fire, and act like I belong there. I continue to stroll through the party, trying to look like I have a clue what I’m doing. I follow this path through the crowd many times that night, but always return to my safe place:
Next to the truck. It’s an old, beat up, red, Chevrolet Suburban. The windshield has a spider web crack in front of the driver’s seat. The paint is faded and the metal rusted. It smells like cigarettes and the floor is littered with trash, beer cans, chaos. But I like it here, next to her. I can see all of my surroundings. I have a place on the hood to put my things and it’s all good to me. The birthday boy makes his laps as well, always coming back to check if I’m still around or if I finally just said, “Fuck it”, and went home. Which I’ll admit, there were a few times I almost did. I can’t help but wonder if he’s only checking on me for one thing. I mean, it is his birthday, I wonder what kind of present he is expecting.
I do enjoy him. He’s funny and so much about his life, his friends, his truck, his house, the way he talks – is comfortable. Like being home. It reminds me of my grandparent’s house, the only place that has ever felt like home. It’s a nostalgia from my childhood, the beaten down cars scattered across the lawn, the old trucks that you can’t believe still run, being in the middle of nowhere, not bothered by anyone. The gentlemen with blue collar jobs, hunting hats and cigarette packs. The girls in shorts and tank tops. It’s all so familiar. I can almost see my grandpa roaming through here, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other. I still don’t quite feel like I belong, but I like it here.
I’m drunk now and have left my safe place for good. I figure I’ll stumble around for another hour or so, sober up, and drive home. But there’s a part of me that wants to stay here, with him, learn a little more, but I’m not sure. I search the party for him, push through the beer pong crowd, through an ill-fitted door and I find myself in the kitchen with a small group of people. I’m flirting. What am I doing? Am I trying to cause myself problems in this town where nobody knows me? Do I even care what they think? I’ll only be here a couple of years, then do what I’m best at and leave. Anyway, I’m flirting with the birthday boy and there in front of us is a chocolate cake. I get a sudden urge to throw it at him, smear it on his face, play.
I haven’t done much thinking, but I go for it, the next few minutes are blurry. Cake flying. People scattering. Suddenly it’s just me and the birthday boy. I’m pushed up against the fridge and kissed, incredibly kissed. Drunk, slobby, messy, passionate, interesting, new. The cake fight is over. It’s time to clean up. We stumble to the bathroom. Trying to wash both sets of hands in one sink, there’s way too much cake for this. He turns on the shower and throws me in it. Clothes and all. I honestly prefer it better this way. I don’t know this man. Shit, I barely know who I am.
Now our clothes are soaked. He lives here and has a whole floor scattered with clothes he can wear. I realize just how unprepared I am. I brought only the clothes on my back. I didn’t plan on staying here long. He offers me dry clothes and turns around as I put them on. Maybe he isn’t so bad after all. It feels good to be in clean, dry clothes even if they are three sizes too big for me. We cuddle and talk for a while. I remind him of his friends, how they are all here to see him and we should get back outside. I’m sure we’re quite the sight, and you can see on everyone’s face what it is that they think we have done, though we haven’t. I don’t care. These people don’t know me. I may never come back around here again. Fuck it, I’m drunk and happy and laughing and nothing else matters right now. It’s a comfortable chaos.
When it’s time for bed, I allow him to lead me to his room. I didn’t have sex with him. My body riddled with chaos, next to his riddled just the same, it was close. But I suppose when the girl you’re trying to sleep with has a panic attack, the answer is quite clear. I didn’t know this man. I was terrified. Petrified. Chaos formed the words in my head, but I couldn’t get them out. My body screamed in protest, but the muscles wouldn’t react. Screaming at myself for putting myself in such a position. “You’re an idiot! A drunk, ignorant idiot!” “All men are the same.” “You are only good for one thing.” “He’s just going to use you and throw you away.” My thoughts ricocheting inside my head like uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor, bound to collide into a magnificent implosion at any moment. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I was hyperventilating, internally screaming. Immobilized and outwardly silent. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about what might come next.
I wish I could say this was the first time I’d been in a situation like this, but it isn’t. At least this one listened. He paid attention. He felt the fear on my skin and brought things to an end. Frightened and grateful, makes for an odd combination. In that moment, he wasn’t like the rest of them. He was different. He apologized. It sounded like he meant it. I fumbled to produce an explanation, but he didn’t need it. He heard it all in my racing heart. I was falling apart. He assured me that everything was okay. His arms folded in around me, forming a cage. I was safe. I timed my breathing with his and fell asleep.
When I left two days later, he said, “Thank you for the company.” I can’t help but wonder what that means. Does it mean I’m actually a person? A someone? Or just another one? Is my purpose simply to lighten his lonely? Or is it to build something? Do I want this to blossom? What could it become? It’s been years since I have stumbled across even the most basic human decency. Someone honest and trustworthy. Someone who made me feel like a human being. Someone with understanding and integrity. This feeling is enticing, intoxicating. Okay, okay, enough hopeful thinking.
How naïve of me to contemplate the idea of connecting? I bask in my alone, in my free. I am not a locked door. He does not hold the key. What am I thinking? No one should go through the strain of trying to love me. I am all too aware of the trail of destruction I am creating. I, just like everything else, pull towards entropy. I always leave. I can never stay in one place long. This gypsy soul of mine must keep moving. Next to him might be a nice place to belong. He might even feel like home, but a gypsy has no need for one.