TY AND I


We spent the Saturday after Valentine's Day together, Zoë, Ty, and I. The three of us had brunch and, like always, spent half of our time teasing each other and laughing about God-knows-what. After establishing a rough budget for this year's road trip, Ty and I ferried Zoë back to her house. Upon returning to my apartment, Ty announced that he was going to do the dishes. And I--not wanting to be too far from his company--ended up in the kitchen as well.

Ty scrubbed at the plates and the muffin tins as I busied myself with fried bananas. We bumped elbows and bashed knees in the cramped galley kitchen. But somewhere in that small vicinity, between slicing a banana and reaching for the dish towel, I remembered something.

"Tyyyyyyyyyyyy," I whined.

"Daaaaaaaaawn," he drawled in response.

I smiled. It was a game--one we'd started playing at the very beginning. We'd share stories with each other, small memories we had carried over the course of our four-year friendship.

"Ty."

"Yes, Dawn?"

"I remembered something." 

"Did'ya now." It wasn't a question; it was an invitation.

"Do you remember," I said, turning over banana slices, "the first time I visited you in Evansville? You were all worried, the entire time, about whether or not I was having fun. You were paranoid that I wasn't enjoying myself." I set down the spatula and reached for the cinnamon. "Anyway, there was that night you were cooking those fajita things. I had been sitting outside with your mom and her friends, and I went into the kitchen for a couple minutes. You noticed me, looked me up and down, and were, of course, wondering if I was bored. So I reached for your hands and said something like, 'You don't need to worry. I'm having a really good time.'"

Ty paused, dish and rag in hand. "I think ... I think I remember that."

I nodded. "I just remember what your face looked like," I said. I looked over my shoulder, in Ty's direction. "You smiled with your eyes."

And with his hands still in the sink, he leaned toward me, matching my quiet words with a gentle kiss.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 


It's a strange thing, really, to kiss your friend in the kitchen. It's an even stranger thing to know that, four years ago, we were just student journalists. Ty and Zoë had started working at Purdue's independent student newspaper, The Exponent, long before I had. By the time I joined the staff as a copy editor, Ty and Zoë were, respectively, the managing editor and the editor-in-chief.

They intimidated the shit out of me.

Sure, all three of us had penchants for words and information. But, unlike me, they had futile rage, closed-door kvetching, and Bob Dylan.

Four years ago, if anyone had told me that I would be dating the managing editor, I would've laughed at the absurdity of it. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 


Three and a half years later, the three of us--along with other former Exponent comrades--were attending a Labor Day wedding. Zoë and I were hovering near the bar, eager for drinks.

"I ... I'm so sorry, Zoë. We ... we, uh, we just didn't know how to tell you." I was struggling for words, and was embarrassed.

"Dawn," she pressed. "It's okay. Really."

Before the ceremony, Zoë, Ty, and I had met at a restaurant in Broad Ripple. Ty and I had arrived a few minutes before Zoë, so we put our name in and waited for a table. We held hands. Things were still new, then. Very new and very confusing. We didn't know what we were or what we were doing. Not in the slightest. But holding hands? Well, it was a connection, at least, and a small thrill. It was nice.

Nice enough, anyway, that we didn't notice Zoë walk in, eyes wide with amused awkwardness.

Back at the wedding, we approached the bartender, cash in hand. "This isn't how we wanted you to find out," I said to Zoë. "I was going to tell you this weekend that we're something--I don't really know what--and ... I'm ... I'm just really sorry that this is what happened first. That I didn't tell you first."

Zoë rolled her eyes. "Dawn. You're fine."

"Are you sure?"

Zoë smirked and shook her head. "You guys are adorable. You're ridiculous."

After a few moments of silence, I turned to my friend once more. "It's okay?" I asked quietly, perhaps a bit pleadingly.

"Yes." She handed  me a cocktail. "Now drink, woman."

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 


By late fall, I was making the three-hour trek to Evansville once or twice a month. It wasn't unusual for Ty and I to end up in his room, talking about politics or Ernie Pyle. At first glance, the wood paneling and sloped ceilings made his room seem small. But, after a while, you noticed the details: the paisley rug, the Beatles poster--with one corner un-tacked--the photos of he and his grandfather, and the bookshelves, with the books stacked two and three deep. But, for the moment, we weren't talking about books.

No, I was in the mood for nostalgia. 

"Sooo ... you remember what I looked like the first time you saw me?" I asked, propping myself up on an elbow.

"Yes, Dawn." Ty sighed and looked at the ceiling. "You had on jeans, and a blue, long-sleeved shirt. And I remember that you were tall with long, brown hair."

" ... You've liked me all this time?"

"We-ll ...it's not like I was pining for you. It wasn't like that." He spoke with his usual intonation, with the emphasis--depending on how you looked at it--on all the wrong words. Or all the right words. Regardless, it suited Ty. "Besides," he chided, "I've always had a thing for tall brunettes. Conveniently, one of my closest friends ended up being one."

He elbowed me.

I raised an eyebrow.

While at Purdue, Ty and I had shared countless drinks at Harry's, our campus bar of choice. We'd made each other dinner, as friends, and had stayed up until morning, talking about old movies and insecurities. For Christmas, he'd bought me a journal to write in. For Easter, I'd sent him pens to write with. We'd taken two road trips with Zoë, and had been through Detroit and Toronto and Glacier and Seattle and the dozens of places between.

We'd shared nearly four years of deadlines and late-night talks, movie nights and Skype chats.

"I had no idea," I said. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 


Around Labor Day, Ty and I helped some friends move into a new apartment. We'd celebrated the move with a home-cooked meal and "adult beverages," and, after talking late into the night, decided it was best to crash in their spare room. The room--like the weather that time of year--was damp with humidity. All the same, Ty and I were laying on a futon too small for the both of us. It'd been a long day, and we'd been talking, like always. Originally, I'd had the futon to myself, with Ty occupying the air mattress. But after we'd started chatting about our divorced parents and about the end of my engagement, he'd moved closer to me. We talked. We held hands. And then, in the safety of darkness, Ty asked a question.

"Would it be weird if I kissed you right now?"

My fleeting mind wondered if this was where I wanted our first kiss to be--on a futon not belonging to either one of us. I was a daydreamer, after all, and had pictured grandiose scenarios. And though my mind was filled with racing thoughts, Ty--from his perspective--heard nothing but awkward silence.

After what could've been five seconds or five minutes, Ty threw up his hands, clearly embarrassed. "You know what? I'm sorry. Forget I asked. I ... sorry. Forget it." He began to vacate the futon.

"No, Ty! That's not--" I grabbed his arm and laughed awkwardly. "No, that's not it. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. That's not it. I'msorryIdidn'tsayanythingIwasthinking."

"Thinking?"

"Yeah ... I just ... sorry." I was at a loss for words ... until I started laughing again. "We're ... we're really bad at this, aren't we?"

Ty chuckled. "Perhaps so."

"Well, this is going to end well, then," I joked. We both laughed, our faces shrouded in darkness. After our laughter faded, I broke the silence with a question of my own: "Do you trust me?"

"Absolute."

"Then close your eyes."

And silently, nervously, and shakily, I leaned forward. Ty kissed me back.

And I forgot how to breathe.

CITY LIVING: THE PULSE OF MY INDY

The city had been on my mind for awhile. True, it was hard to not think about it, given that, each day, I drove its streets and walked its paths. But it wasn't so much my daily life that I focused on; rather, it was the abstraction of being in the city in the first place. It was the feel. The pulse. The heartbeat beneath my footsteps.

I let its rhythm carry me two blocks to the north, to Virginia Avenue. It was a Wednesday night, to be exact. Two Wednesdays ago, to be exacter. We'd gotten a couple more inches of glittering, powdery snow that day. You know, the kind of nuisance snow that can't be molded, can't be shaped, and doesn't cling to the branches outside our windows. It's the same kind of snow that your landlord shovels off the underlying layer of ice.

How sweet.

Sweet, too, was the warmth of Rook, a cozy, counter-service restaurant that brings, as its website says, "the flavors of Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, India, Thailand, and Laos into one building - and onto one menu." I had heard the ravings. I had read about it in Indy Monthly. I had seen the Instagrammed plates. Furthermore, it was but a three-and-a-half-minute walk from my apartment.

But I still hadn't been there.

Not until that Wednesday, that is. Not until that pulse--the pulse that beats and beats buy local eat local shop local be local live local--guided me over the icy sidewalks and through the door.

Oh, my senses.

I was knocked with the smell of sriracha and the white noise of chattering patrons, but it took only a moment to spot my friend, who was seated, waiting for me.

"I'm so sorry I'm a couple minutes late," I gushed. I removed my gloves and struggled to untangle my scarf from my curls.

She looked up from her phone. "Don't worry about it! I've only been here a couple of minutes anyway."

I laughed. "Okay, good. Again, I'm so sorry. I got held up at the office just before I tried to leave."

"No, really! Don't worry." She waved away my excuses and gestured toward the counter. "Ready to order?”


Five minutes and an avocado appetizer later, we were talking about our work, about our weekends, and about Chicago. She asked me how my latest visit to Evansville was. I asked her how her projects at the Children's Museum were going. There was hardly time for a lull in the conversation, as we asked each other, "Have you ever been to Ball and Biscuit?" "Have you ever gone duckpin bowling?" "Ever seen a show at The Vogue?" We were learning. Learning about each other and about the city, and experiencing restaurants and venues through each other's words.

"Oh!" my friend exclaimed suddenly, her posture straightening. "I have something for you." She retrieved from her purse a 30-page, black and white publication. "I brought you a copy of my zine."

I could hear it in her voice, the pride. The happiness of finishing a creative endeavor. The happiness of completing a challenge.

"I made one page every day of November," she explained. "You've heard of NaNoWriMo, right? Well, I was really inspired by that but, instead of writing a novel, I made a zine! I'd never made one before, so this was kind of an experiment. I just wanted to do something with my hands, something creative, and spend less time in front of a screen, you know?"

"This is really cool," I said, thumbing through the pages. There were sketches. Collages. A drawing of a cigarette, a lament about the oppressiveness of bras. "I'm looking forward to going through this. Thank you!" Like a flip book, I turned the pages. November Spawned a Monster, it was called.

I smiled. She blushed. And then our food arrived.


 Karaage and red curry coconut noodles and too much food, almost, but just the right amount of spice for my stuffy nose and itchy throat. I was tired and it was cold and we were talking. Talking about food and the city and the zine and Chicago and the interior of Rook--about the white walls, the yellow chairs, the black birds, the telephone poles.

I was distracted from my own conversation, however, when two more patrons--a dapper, mustachioed man and a striking, clad-in-a-blue-dress redhead--walked through Rook's door. "Oh my God," I whispered to myself as they passed our table.

My friend was unable to ignore my sudden infatuation, and so I explained to her that the man was a filmmaker, a taker of photos, and a wicked dancer. I told her that the woman was possibly the city's most famous redhead, and that she was an interior designer. And I also told her that they had no idea who I was. 

"This city is a small town, though. I mean, they're friends with people that I know as well," I said honestly. "Plus, I follow them on Instagram and stuff."

"Sooo ... are they sort of like local celebrities?"

I shrugged. Maybe. They had recognizable names, admirable styles, and notable talents, sure. They were the entrepreneurs, the young professionals. The ones who hung out in downtown penthouses and with each other. They were the faces of that pulse. That heartbeat.

"Are you going to introduce yourself?" she asked.

"Would that be creepy?"

We laughed. We shrugged. "Does it matter?"

As it were, they were nice. They were polite. And they were apparently not bothered by the fact that I had momentarily interrupted their camaraderie.

Nearly three weeks later, I doubt they remember me. But that still doesn't change the fact that Indianapolis is the biggest small town I've ever lived in. We all know each other ... somehow. In some way. Through someone. And if the city has a pulse, and the streets are its veins, then we are its cells, pushing and flooding and circulating. We're bound to collide somewhere. At work. At lunch. At the grocery store. Sometimes, we can find each other at the top of parking garages, seeking new perspectives. And, sometimes, we'll see an image of a place we've never been, an image on Instagram or Twitter, and think to ourselves, I want to make that part of my world, too. I don't want to just be in the city. I want to live it.

AFTER DARK

Photo courtesy of Leslie Lewis. Follow her, @lessyloo, on Instagram.


I stand on my front step and wait for you to call. It’s bitter out here. Bitter, damp, and dangerous for my nettled lungs, the ones that ache with each cough and with each wheezy breath. I don’t care. I don’t care that my fingers are already numb; I don't care that my chest is prickling. Right now, in this small infinity of winter and passive-aggression, it is night and it is snowing. It's quiet as cotton, brilliant as rain, and it falls. Down, down, down through branches and onto rooftops, sidewalks, my shoes. I've frozen laces and wet eyelashes and yet I stand, waiting. Coughing. Waiting. The snow makes no sound of its own, I realize. No. No, it doesn’t. Rather, it softens the white noise of the streets. It’s sanguine, really, how the lacy flakes silence the city like a white tablecloth. Surely, it must be dinnertime somewhere. But here on my step, in my wool coat and six-year-old sneakers, I've a different hunger. Down, down, down.
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