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In retrospect - yeah - maybe she should have known something was off about the whole thing.  

The handsome popular hockey player guy who had never spoken to her before - and was in none of her classes or activities - approaching her at her locker out of nowhere one afternoon - and asking her out on a date?  Definitely unexpected.  Nobody had ever asked her out before.  

(In retrospect) maybe slightly strange that she knew who he was - everyone did - but she had no idea how he knew who she was. She was pretty but extremely shy - not even popular within the social circles of AP classes and orchestra that she did quietly frequent, almost like a ghost. But she could rationalize it.  Things like this happened in the movies right?

Handsome hockey guy wanting to surprise her about where they were going to go but telling her she should wear something nice like a dress or skirt?  

(In retrospect) a little weird considering that they didn't even know each other - hadn't really even had a real conversation yet - but maybe he was trying to impress her by going somewhere fancy?

The surprise location of the date turning out to be the empty dollar movie theater downtown to see Home Alone 3?

(In retrospect) really disappointing - at first.  Disappointing dissolving into terrifying as she spent the duration of the terrible movie pushing back his hand from a slow but persistent ascent up the skirt she had bought especially for this night - her first date ever.

Asking him to drive her home after the movie but he - to her horror - driving to a nearby park instead?

He - pushing his mouth onto hers despite her starting to cry and fighting to get away and begging to be driven home?

He - breaking out of whatever trance he was in - angry but at least finally yielding - condescendingly asking her "Don't you think you owe me something for taking you out?"

He - finally driving her home - telling her that nobody would believe her if she told anyone about this?

(In retrospect) she - knowing that she was lucky that night to have only lost her trust in humanity?
I.

By most accounts, the boy who worked the sailboat dock was an *******.

II.

The invisible girl was slightly less inconspicuous this summer of seventeen.  Her best friends - all a grade older - had returned from their respective colleges after her terrifyingly long and paralyzingly lonely senior high school year - a year of many nights spent with a flashlight under the covers reading Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates - and poetry - oh so much poetry - and writing sketches she'd take to SNL or Second City and screenplays destined for Hollywood in which she would also star - all of this of course for after she had fulfilled her childhood contractual obligation to be the good girl and go to college and get that degree in a nice reliable field that would guarantee a good job at a name respected company with a predictable income - and even more importantly all of which would make her parents proud and would repay the debt she owed them  for raising her to 18th birthday in August.  But now these friends were back and it was time to be a kid for one more summer.

College - freedom - adulthood - waited at the end of this last season of childhood - and the sudden realization that these crazy dreams of hers that nobody else believed in were within sight allowed her to allow herself a summer of fun.  She had worked hard.  She had earned it.  

She deserved it.

These friends had talked her into to applying for the job at the lake boat rental with them for the summer - and quite surprisingly her parents agreed (ahem, relented) to let her take the job despite the low pay and distance and hours (after much worrisome hand-wringing about the price of gas and the safety of being at the remote state park by herself before light or after dark from time to time).

And for maybe the first time - she didn't immediately retreat into tears and surrender the first time they said "no".  She fought for it.
And she won.  There was something dangerous and powerful - and also horrifying but magical - about this win.   It represented possibility.  And it invited a new boldness and mischief and nagging curiosity....

Maybe she could actually be right about the other things she wanted for herself as well.  

And maybe this suspicion - that perhaps she knew better - and this mischief and rebellion - were just what made her visible that summer. 

III.

The sailboat boy mostly kept to himself on his dock - at first.

IV.

The girl was curious about the boy but only from a strictly academic perspective. She had heard the rumors... that he had been fired from the marina the year before for dumping gasoline on the lake and setting it on fire. Her father - having had the boy for 9th grade English two years prior - advised her that he had a bit of a reputation at that school for trouble.  Nothing criminal; but nothing to trifle with either.  Her friends - and most trusted advisors of all - told her that he could be kind of funny but he was a bit of a ladies' man and he had a notorius temper and to just try to avoid him.  

So she did.

V.

Until...

"Jenga."

She glanced up from the sunfish she was lost in thought scrubbing.  Once a week the sailboats needed to be scoured to keep them white for the customers who - god forbid - wouldn't want to rent a slightly ***** outdoor water recreation vehicle.  The girl liked to volunteer for this task as it gave her a chance to work alone and daydream in the sun and enjoy the beauty of the park.  She was startled - and a little annoyed - by the unwelcome interruption and wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

"Um, okay - hi - what?  What's a Jenga?" she replied hesitantly - curious enough to ask - but internally planning for this to be a polite exchange followed by a quick dismissal.

The sailboat boy smiled mischievously.  He had that side parted hair like Leo had in Titanic - where when he tilted his head the hair would fall into his eyes and he'd have to constantly push it back.  It occurred to her to wonder if he needed a haircut or if this look was by design.

"You're Jenga.  I don't really like your real name - so I'm going to call you Jenga."    Again with the smile, this time with a sorry-not-sorry playfulness to it.

The girl (newly annointed "Jenga"?) didn't quite know what to do with this either.  She was not accustomed to being noticed - let alone being approached and talked to - by anyone - let alone a  handsome boy who usually kept to himself too and everyone warned her was bad news.  But she was also irked by the insult against her name and surprised herself by engaging defensively:

"What's wrong with my name?  I like my name.  It's different.  I bet you don't know any other girls with my name.  It's a pretty cool name."

To which he responded... again with the exasperating smile - "It's too old fashioned for you.  It doesn't fit.  You're Jenga."  A pause.  "See you around Jenga."

And before she could think of anything clever enough in return, he walked back to his sailboat dock.  

She spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what had just happened and stealing glances at the sailboat dock to see if he was laughing at her.  

He wasn't.  Or at least not so she could tell.

VI.

She had to find out what Jenga meant.  It turned out it's a game where you build a tower out of blocks and then players take turns pulling blocks from the stable bottom of the tower and putting them on top - creating an unstable structure.  The winner is the last person to place a block on top without the whole thing falling down.

It was also partially an anagram for her real name...but that was stretching it a bit in a quest for any kind of meaning.

She obsessed about why in the world he would say this - how it could possibly be some weird metaphor for an insult or something but came up with zilch.  The whole exchange was just weird.

She decided to let it go.. but then couldn't stop thinking about it.

VII.

The entire next week he didn't approach her again, but if they were in proximity of each other without anyone else around to hear he would brighten and whisper "Hey, Jenga!".. always with the increasingly infuriating smile - and like he thought they had some secret that nobody else was in on and they were both enjoying.

She tried eye rolling, sighing, "ugh"-ing, and politely ignoring him but he was not dissuaded by any of it.  She wasn't enjoying this game.  She was starting to get frustrated.

VIII.

The next week the girl was helping with customers on the motorboat dock. There were three docks; one for sailboats (where the boy worked), one for motorboats, and one for pontoon boats - and helping out basically meant making sure everyone had a life jacket, knew how to operate the machinery, and ensuring they didn't fall in the water when they took the step from the dock into the boat.  In between customers you basically just would wait in the nearby boat house and try to keep cool.. which was what she was doing until..

"Hi, Jenga!"

And she lost it.  Forgetting all shyness and politeness she told the boy in no uncertain colorful terms that if he didn't cut it with the Jenga **** she was going to do something about it.  She didn't know what that was yet.. but... but.... something.  To which he escalated - always with that crocodile grin..

"Prove it."

"If you call me Jenga again....I'll...I'll...I'll hit you with this rope.".  Seething, she latched onto the nearest maritime accessory the boat house could offer her.

"If you hit me with that rope, I will throw you in the lake...."  Calm but teasing....  "Jenga."

What choice did she have then?  She smacked him with the rope.  And the sailboat boy - who until that second she had not thought could possibly be that strong  in all his lankiness promptly picked her up by the waist, and carried her outside to the edge of the dock.

And as promised - he threw her into the lake.

IX.

The boy was nearly fired until the girl volunteered her culpability in hitting him with the rope.  

Oddly, he hadn't ratted her out for that.

They were told to stay away from each other for the rest of the summer.  Under possible termination of employment.

Oddly, neither of them mentioned Jenga either.

X.

They abided the rules - they remained apart - but something had changed.

She caught him watching her.  Often.  And in retrospect she had to wonder - was he only caught because she was watching him as well?

XI.

Two weeks later, the girl worked the dock on a day the boy was not scheduled to work.  A random week day when customer traffic was low - and the bosses were at some boating conference pondering the next models to peddle next year - and her time reading in the boat house ran long.

And out of nowhere - on this random week day the summer of seventeen - the boy appeared to the girl in that boat house.

And he - this dangerous, rumored-to-be-much-experienced boy - the one who could get her fired if they were caught speaking - locked eyes with this incredibly shy, overprotected, inexperienced girl he had driven crazy thus far and stated nervously:

"You... you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.  And I'm not sure what to do.  I don't know how to talk to you."

And maybe for the first time, she couldn't look away.  She couldn't break that eye contact.  He stepped toward her - with fear in HIS eyes - and kissed her gently - and she found she - despite never having been kissed seriously before - for the first time in just about any endeavor she had ever undertaken - wasn't the one who was afraid.

She was the one who was beautiful.

She was the one who was wanted.

And they kissed for what seemed to be hours - but must have been minutes or seconds - falling to the ground in spite of themselves - amongst life jackets and rope and boat cleaning supplies.

And it was beautiful.

It was perfect.
Still refining the ending.  But also wanted to get it out there somewhat raw because I think I got the beauty of the moment down in a pretty satisfying way :)
Sometimes I think - if only I could take all the rage and pain and desperate panic and dangerous thoughts of our internal worlds - and the addictions to likes and loves and views and comments and the constant tiring aching need for approval - and the irrational heartache in its absence - and the secret fears and open wounds that never heal - and hurl them into the outermost reaches of our ever expanding universe so that not a single one of us ever again had to suffer any of these indignities and betrayals - how fabulous a world would that be.

But alas - my friends - I am quite sorry to say I have a pretty ****** arm and the odds are much more favorable that I’d probably instead wreck Mars for colonial life in the future.

And come on - would we ever recognize and appreciate moments of true happiness without these bitter inconveniences anyway?

So here is my counter-proposal;  let’s tell some short stories.  Fact or fiction. Poetry or prose.  No matter how dark any random minute might be we all have those completely unreal moments of magic too.  Think hard of the time you felt the most alive and beautiful. Or think of the funniest, most serendipitous thing that ever happened to you.  Or one of your imagination.  One you want to happen. And write that mojo down.

I want to hear those stories so I can have something to smile at after a long frantic day of meetings and chaos and picking up and dropping off tiny people in various places.  

Or if you are stuck in the dark - invent for me the story of how you get out.  What the next step is.  And the step after that.  Tell me your plan to get unstuck and what your optimal end game is.  Think of it perhaps as a scary video game - what demons do you have to vanquish to win?

I want to hear those stories so that when I feel stuck or overwhelmed I have a reminder that all you need is to keep your eye on the prize and figure out how to make progress.  That complete  failure is a myth - it is just guidance to a course correction.

And in return  - I’ll commit  to spin some yarns - all these short films that run circles in my brain at night that I keep saying to myself - I gotta write that one down - or I need to film that - and just can’t ever make time for - this is my contract to commit.  To be the writer that I am in my head.

Let’s spin those *flax golden tales my friends. And perhaps little by little we can chip away the angst of this insane universe together.  That’s why we’re here, right?
*Flax golden tales is from “invitation” by shel silverstein, I can’t take credit for it :)

— The End —