“Your mess doesn’t scare me”

So I took her home.

I’m skipping a lot of details so let me back up.


I picked her up for our third date at the coffee shop where she worked just like I had for the two before.  She sat at the front table so she could see me pull up in my tan Impala.  I didn’t have to honk or anything, she rose and grabbed her purse and headed for the door as I pulled into one of the front stalls. I watched her sashay my way, throwing a goodbye to the barista on duty.  She was clearly liked by her co-workers.  Her smile was wide but not overly broad as she came through the door.


She settled in easily beside me and leaned over and pecked me on the cheek,

“How are you today?”

I blushed a little.  I do that when I receive unexpected affection.  Even affection that awesome.

“I’m good.  How are you?  Hope you weren’t waiting long?”

“No, not at all, Chris just took over for me and I was resting my feet.  You’d be surprised how hard even a padded floor gets after six hours.”


Actually, I wouldn’t, I’d been washing dishes at Glen and Mary’s Bistro for going on three years.  The rubber mats always felt cushy when you started your shift but it didn’t seem to make any difference after you stood in place for an hour or so.


“Where should we go?  It’s your choice since you just got off.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I don’t have as much info as you do, after all, you’re the hotshot waiter.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.  I eat the same way you do.  Besides, being a barista at a high end coffee shop you probably hear all kinds of gossip about the best places.”

“True, there’s some, but who wants to spend an arm and a leg for a salad or a chicken breast when you can have a great sub sandwich at Gambino’s?”

“No argument here.  Gambino’s it is!”


I breathed an internal sigh of relief.  I could give the hundred back to Tom tomorrow.


“Glad to see you got the Impala back from the shop.”

“Yeah, right?  No more driving that crappy Toyota!  I’m lucky Tom let me drive it while they fixed my alternator.”

“Yeah, good friends are priceless.”

“You should know, here you’ve been letting Chris and Stacey hang out at your place for the last three months until they get on their feet.  I’d be demanding they get their own place pronto!’

“Oh, they’re not bad.  They help with cleaning the place and provide most of the groceries and utilities.”

“Still, you’re paying the rent, that’s the majority of the expense.”

“I don’t mind. I need the company.”


Gambino’s was busy like it was most Thursday nights with college kids heading to the bars and people getting off work late grabbing a sandwich to take home to their apartment.  We talked easily, casually until the conversation turned somehow to honesty and integrity.


“I’ve been in some relationships that were built on half-truths and out-and-out lies and they never lasted.”  Her gaze dropped down as she said it and I wondered if the last glance she gave me was questioning.


“Me too, I don’t know why people put up a front.  Don’t they get it?  Don’t they know it all unravels eventually?”  It was my turn to look down as she looked up.  I couldn’t meet her eyes and I was afraid she’d seen my emotion before I’d hidden it.  She had.


“What’s wrong, Scott?”

“Nothing, I…”

This was the part where it always fell apart.  I couldn’t hide my thoughts or my fears.  I knew when I looked up they’d be all over my face.

“I, I…”

“What’s wrong, honey?”


She reached across the worn laminate table and put a hand on my hand.  It was over, I was demolished.  I’d bungled another opportunity, far and away the best opportunity I’d ever had.  I’d slipped into the old habits, the old dodges, the old lies.


“I’m sorry, Tracy.”  It was all I could muster.

“Scott.  Sorry about what?”

Might as well get it over with, I suppose.


“Tracy, I really like you.  You’re funny and smart and you have a great laugh and your smile and your eyes…well, I just get lost in ‘em.”

It was her turn to blush, but I had to bring the hard part.

“I haven’t been 100% honest with you.”

“You’re not married, are you?”

I half laughed, “No, far from that but I’m not a hotshot waiter, I’m just a dishwasher.  And that car I drove the other day, the POS Toyota?  That’s actually mine.  I’m the one borrowing my roommate’s car tonight.”

She was quiet but she didn’t look mad.  I still couldn’t look into her eyes for long though, so I looked down and went on.

“That house I took you by the other day?  It’s not where I live.  I live in a crummy two bedroom down on 5th street.  I’ve been renting there for two years since I lost my house when I couldn’t make the mortgage.  I’m not any better than those other guys you’ve dated who weren’t square with you.  I’m sorry I led you on, I just didn’t-“

“I’m not a barista.  I clear tables and wash glasses and fetch stuff from the stockroom upstairs!”

It was my turn to look surprised.

“I’ve been sleeping on my friends’ couch for two months since my mom and dad kicked me out for smoking weed in the garage.  I can’t say that I blame them.  It wasn’t the first time.”

“Oh.”  It was a dumb thing to say, or really not say since it was just a sound.

“I’m a complete hypocrite when it comes to honesty and relationships I guess.”

“Oh.”  There was that damn sound again!  I was really burning it up on the communication front.

“My life’s a complete mess and I can’t blame anyone but myself.”

“Yeah, uh, I mean, me too.”

She giggled, “So where does that leave us?”

I took a deep breath and let it out.

“I don’t know.  I guess a couple of people who don’t like misleading and dishonesty but can’t seem to practice it.”

“No kidding.”

“I’m a mess too.  I live on frozen food and takeout and watch crummy cable t.v. most of the time in my underwear.”

She giggled again but I didn’t blush.

“I’ve been trying for a long time to get on my feet but I never seem to have that something to get over the hump, you know?  I try and I try and every time I fall back into the mess that’s me.”

“I know what you mean. It seems to suck you back in every time.”

“Right, and when someone comes along that you really see a future with it’s so hard not to try and make yourself something you’re not because you’re pretty sure the mess that is you will scare them off.”


That’s when she said it.  Looking back I don’t know that she could have said anything sweeter or more encouraging or empowering.  I did take her to my crappy place downtown that night.  Nothing happened except we sat on my ratty couch and talked, then watched t.v. and then talked again.  It doesn’t feel like she’s ever left since that night I told her what an absolute mess I was.  These days when I see dishes and trash and piles of clothing, dirty or clean, piling up; I feel her settling in and I embrace the mess we are together.


“I want to make it my home.”


She said that when we brought her stuff over.  Her belongings stayed packed all of about 30 minutes but we didn’t really put them away.  We just got them out of the boxes and put them on the couch, the dresser, the coffee table and wherever else we could find a place.  It didn’t matter; neatness wasn’t part of the agreement.  It wasn’t part of the understanding.  We like it that way.  We’re okay with that.