I remember the day Ali died perfectly, not because she died that day, but because it was a perfect day. How does one quantify perfection? You cannot measure it, but it exists, trust me.
Well, you don’t trust me yet, so let me show you, or tell you, and you might imagine what it is like. Or, perhaps, it will remind you of when you had experienced perfection.
So I can tell you about my perfect day, let me go back in time—back to the moment when I first met Ali.
I almost didn’t go.
“Jonathan, if we keep moving these boxes we will never make that singles event at church.”
“I don’t care for those damn events, the girls are always ugly, or there is no one there. I might as well set up my new apartment,” Jonathon said, “You can go, you always seem to get lucky, if there is one pretty girl there, you will find her. She will probably like you, and I will stand in the corner, drinking cheap vodka out of a plastic cup.”
“C’mon Jonathan, it is a break from all of this.”
I pointed to the copious amount of organization that needed to occur. Endless piles of boxes, mostly of junk knowing Jonathon.
“Plus, you promised you’d go, remember we have been remarking that we need to meet some ‘good’ girls, plus I’ll let you drive my new Mustang GT, and we will listen to the Eagles, and I’ll pay for all of your alcohol the next five times we go out.”
“Well, you had me at Mustang GT, Jax.”
I smirked at the sound of my name and threw him my keys. Off we were, both single twenty-six-year-old graduates—with low-wage jobs, useful for building our resumes we told ourselves. Off to a random singles event at a Catholic Church.
I had known Jonathon for years, ever since freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. He was my fraternity brother, now my best friend. He was a scrawny guy with a sense of sarcastic humor, and who was as loyal as they came.
When we got to the church, I told Jonathon that he was banned from driving my GT for a couple of weeks. He had almost popped a tire skidding against the curb, going sixty in a thirty-five while blaring the Eagles.
“… Jax is lookin’ for a lover who won’t blow his cover, take it easy, don’t let the sound of your Mustang’s wheels drive you crazy…lighten up while you still can,” crooned Jonathon, “Whoo hoo, whoo hoo, whoo hoo, oh we got it easy, we oughtta’ take it easy here.”
“Yeah, yeah, I will take it easy, but I am driving home Jonathon,” I smiled holding out my hand for my keys.
Jonathon threw the keys in the air, I caught them, and then caught myself in the middle of the event.
Michael Jackson was playing. People were dancing. It was “Thriller.” It was a party. A party of sad people approaching middle age. Two people were on the dance floor. One guy was balding, with a Hawaiian style shirt on and jean shorts. You have to be a kid or gay to pull off the wearing of jean shorts. This man was not gay.
Jonathon looked at me for my reaction, and I shrugged, then whispered in his ear sweet nothings.
“You can drive my GT home, you were right about this singles event.”
Jonathon grinned. And he patted me on the back as he handed me a consolation prize. He had picked up four extra drink tickets at the door. Jonathon waved to a black-haired lady, who was at least forty-five and could be pretty if you squinted a little.
“I got the hookup son.”
“You sure do,” I said.
“How about we get some drinks with these tickets? And then we can leave and bar hop, or go to Chris’s house as he always has lady friends over.”
“Yeah lady friends for himself,” I said, “But yeah, let’s have a few drinks and then get out of here.”
I walked carefully on the outside of the dance-floor. Careful to not touch the floor as I was afraid it would devour me. I was afraid that the lady who could be my young mom, gyrating on the dance floor by herself would force me into her gyration and I would gyrate to Michael. Soon, I would be wearing jean shorts.
I say none of this to be mean, I’m just being twenty-six and everyone seems too old at twenty-six I was just kidding around. I always feel like I need to say things like that. My mom says I “over-explain” and “over-apologize.”
“Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. It is in the Bible, Jax.”
“Maybe, Mom, but you are not quoting it verbatim, and that is definitely out of context, that passage is talking about not giving oaths or something similar.”
“I think it also is talking about meaning what you say, without over-explaining yourself. You don’t ever have to be ashamed if what you are saying is right and good.”
“Mom, sometimes, what I say is not right or good.”
“Then maybe I need to wash your mouth out with soap,” she smiled, “or you need to say nice things.”
So, maybe I am overly verbose, but I feel like I need to be to get this across to you - so you know, Jonathon and I were just young. We were all young, Ali, Jonathon, and me.
Sometimes you are young, sometimes you are old, and sometimes you die young. Like James Dean.
But, does that mean he always gets to be young?
It doesn’t seem fair to always get to be young. It doesn’t feel fair to die young either. However, you can’t do both, you cannot live to be old while staying young. It doesn’t work that way.
I feel old now, or tired and middle-aged. Or, whatever I am. I think Ali is still young. Young enough to still laugh about being middle-aged, reveling in her youth. I was once that young. I am young no more, life takes your youth and consumes it with dreams undone and places yet to be visited. I am aware of this now, it consumes me still, what could have been and what is.
I continued to walk carefully around the rim of the dance-floor and gave the drink tickets to a lady pouring drinks into red Solo cups. I asked her for two vodka tonics and gave her two tickets. She made the drinks and handed them to me. I turned around to Jonathon, almost spilling the drinks on myself and him. Jonathon then noticed something I had not, that to our right, there were two women in their mid-twenties. Attractive and standing there alone, we decided that we had better approach them.
Jonathon motioned with his elbow declaring over the music, “I got this.”
“Ok,” I said.
I wanted to see what happened. I had the adrenaline rush I always got whenever I approached a woman. There were always at least three possible initial outcomes: 1. They were already in a relationship (or they lied they were), 2. They were interested and “here is my number” or 3. They weren’t interested and were willing to say so (in which case, if said directly, let me know I wasn’t interested either, although it hurt my pride).
So, because of possibilities 1 or 3: I always got a little nervous. I think that stunts your ability to be yourself.
However, before I could think anymore, Jonathon had already gone over to them and was talking. Who knew what idiotic thing would come out of his mouth.
Oh, well, I breathed in.
I breathed out. My name is Jax, nice to meet you, Nicole and Ali. I stopped at Ali and peered for a moment into her crystal blue eyes. They pierced me as they were so solid, dark, and blue, they were the color of the deep ocean. I noticed her pouty lips. My God, they were adorably bow-shaped, painted slightly pink—like bubblegum.
I talked but felt far away, outside of myself. I was floating on the ocean of Ali’s eyes. I suggested, with no forethought, that we all go get a drink at a bar.
“We should get out of here.”
At the bar, everyone was laughing, including Ali and me.
“We all thought the same thing,” said Jonathon.
“Yeah,” said Nicole, “It was all old people. When we saw ya’ll, it was easy to talk to you.”
Ali didn’t talk, she smiled and nodded, and laughed full throatedly when we talked about “Thriller.”
I was leaving the bathroom to go back to the table, when I bumped into her, into Ali. She was leaving the bathroom at the same time as I was.
I felt like I was outside of myself again. I was not this forward. I touched the small of her back, intimately.
As my hand lightly lay on the small of Ali’s back, I asked her if she would go with me to an indie rock concert or something.
“We both like…”
“indie rock…I would love to Jax.”
I smiled as I programmed her number into my phone (texting was not a thing yet). She said to call her, and we returned to the table.
I thought: “oh my heart, i carry your heart with me,” – e. e. cummings.
And, it was grand, and songs played as I danced with Ali all over the bar. All things had stopped moving, and everyone was a statue, but for Ali and I. Suddenly, she knew how to dance like a ballroom expert. I was in a tux and Ali was in a beautiful ballgown. I twisted her around and around, and as the crescendo came, we were magnificent.
Everyone was clapping as we took our seats. The din of the bar came back to surround us, and I was in jeans again. I looked into Ali’s cobalt eyes, and she had been there, dancing with me. There was a sense of expectation. Something about what could be. Something about being young.
Later into the night, as I walked Ali to her car, she danced a “Thriller” move just for me. I copied her and there we were acting fools together. I took her hand as we danced and felt the electricity that can only come from new touch. A hand approached and enveloped into mine. Tingles down my spine. I leaned over her with my hand on her car, so cliché. Then, I kissed her. Her bubblegum, pouty lips. A long kiss you wouldn’t understand unless you were there, kissing my Ali. Well, she wasn’t mine yet, but it felt different from kissing other girls. Sure, there was lust, but there was a melting into each other.
Someone closed a car door in a parking space near us, and I opened my eyes, and so did Ali. My mouth was raw from kissing her, like necking as a teenager. I had lost track of time for a moment. Had it been two minutes or ten we had been kissing? I wasn’t sure.
“Goodnight Ali, I will call you.”
“G’night Jax, I’ll look for that call,” she smiled.
And off I was with Jonathon, Jonathon driving my Mustang home. Yes, he played the Eagles again, the same song.
“I gotta know when Ali’s sweet love is gonna save Jax…”