Sometimes when it’s a late night, I speed past my exit, down the 405, en route to Santa Monica. I almost drive myself there.
I’m never quite sure why I’m going so far south when I don’t need to… it just feels like the night isn’t over yet. Like many gut instincts, it doesn’t feel like it should be over yet.
I drive and I drive and halfway through, my brain turns back on. What are you doing, Crystal? Every time, it scolds me for wasting gas and still wanting — still not having what you have completed be enough — still hanging onto needing more. So more often than not, I find myself turning around last minute somewhere between the Getty and Wilshire, to head back up north to my valley abode.
I never complete my Santa Monica excursion, where if upon completion I always faintly picture I’d park by the closed pier. I’d walk along the water’s edge, absentmindedly picturing the day I’d do this in a less lonely way, longing for that neighboring someone next to me. But as the vision proceeds, normally as I drive, I realize how lonely it is, and that’s why I stop myself from plummeting further into the abyss of sadness.
I’m pretty damn sure though that I’ll get down there at some point, which is why I keep doing it.
I almost get down to the beach, just like I almost break down in the bathroom before a huge interview, like I almost hit the ‘delete’ button on a Friend, like I almost wish I was anywhere but where I am. Despite the fact that I signed up for everything I have now, I want so badly to quit sometimes. I feel I overestimate how much I can handle. I often am on the verge of indulging the ‘almost’ to its fullest — get halfway somewhere, then turn around and stop. Because sometimes I don’t care enough to go through with seeing the ‘almost’ continue, painfully.
The ‘almost’ beach trip is a metaphor for the life I’ve been living lately — watching opportunities ‘almost’ work out.
Not with work, but with many other aspects of life — it was always easy to quit out of necessity. To ‘almost’ be happy but blame circumstance. I had the luxury of escaping my sorrows by running to a different place every 4 months for 2 years. I could tell myself I ‘almost’ had what I wanted (especially with relationships), and then leave before I could watch it fall apart of its own avail, timing and distance be damned.
When I was 19 and got my heart broken for the first time by a boy I thought I loved but never got to date, I realized the curse of the ‘almosts.’ The biggest downside was sometimes I wouldn’t know it was an almost until it didn’t happen. Sometimes I’d have to go in believing this would be an exception to find out it would be ‘almost,’ again. And despite how much gambling makes me sick, I try and rail against destiny each time, hoping it will change this time. I roll the dice and read the cards and pray and send the thoughtful notes I think will convey, against time and space, how I want something better than to jot this in the history books as another ‘almost.’
Eventually I stop trying because I no longer want to be an ‘almost.’ I will settle for just being a ‘never,’ as I fleet from city to city, okay with temporary infatuation in which I’ll never have to deal with anything but ‘almost’ because of my choice.
But then years later, I meet my shining knight of ‘almosts,’ who I am shocked to see is like me. Life has also smacked the knight upside the head due to ‘almosts.’ The knight who hides behind the exact same armor of widespread platonic popularity and success to protect himself from ‘almosts’ with the things that matter. Who wields promises via body language that never emerge with words, the knight who looks at me like I matter to him, the knight who tells me pretty things when he’s in a brave mood and hides when he’s not. I don’t resent him, couldn’t if I tried, for I’m the queen of ‘almosts.’ Some have been because of choices out of my control, and some have been because of choices in my control. Neither are different. Neither of us is different.
It wasn’t always going to matter. I held back hope until I knew where I was going — until I tried to quit my fate of ‘almost’ getting what I want, and start scotch free over and invest in stability. Because I didn’t want to say goodbyes again and feel like the ‘almost’ queen forever. I guess I traded my problems for a whole new plane — more control than I necessarily wanted, when I had nothing to control yet. I’m too new to stability to know how to function, when my modus operandi has always been the ‘almost’ queen. I’m trying to rebrand myself, but fear I’m cursed and chained to that identity. Even with things that matter so much.
So it happens that standing in front of a room surrounded by people you’d rather talk to over me, I am the one speechless. I tremble, because I want to, and almost, tell you I love you.
But it wouldn’t make any sense to spill that secret when you have never even responded to my hinting, bringing to light the possibility you don’t want to. But the agony of only almost saying it hurts more than the agony of the silence I hear. And I try to keep it from spilling out, how I couldn’t resist coming here to see you to confess (like I almost did shivering at that east coast restaurant) how much I don’t want to never see you again, to never feel so seen again or gaze in awe at someone who also derives meaning from finding meaning, or marvel at a heart who wants to thoughtfully change the world too. I almost blurt out that I’m rehearsed with baggage and don’t find anyone’s, even your’s, scary — I almost tell you that I don’t want to stop shepherding you through your dark hour. —
Ultimately… I almost drop to my knees and beg for you to try too — beg the universe for not another ‘almost.’ Beg you to not leave me behind. But who am I to have the right to say that, when I sense I should give control to the universe. I try to say it anyway, afterward. I try to make an opportunity for this to be not an almost. I try harder to at least get the no I fear is there, or the yes without hesitation that I hope is there.
But it’s still silent — still an almost — perhaps a limbo laced with fear. Or perhaps it’s merely determination to speak your mind when it’s time, because it’s not yet time. It’s hard to tell the difference at this point, if an ‘almost’ is because the story was meant to just be a near miss. Or a different reason — because the story isn’t over…
The other thing that is hard about ‘almosts’ — sometimes you think they’re ‘almosts’ because the outcome hasn’t happened. The totem from this Inception-esque lucid dream hasn’t stopped spinning. I don’t know where the line between reality and fantasy, fear and perseverance, actually lies. Sometimes, maybe ‘almosts’ are because I gave up too easily.
I’ve turned the focus on my relationship to almosts, instead of worrying about yours: and it’s hard to know what my issue is. If I stay too long, or have never stayed long enough.
So how do I decide how long to stay? I wait for the love to run out. I wait until my boundaries, maintained so well with so many others, go back up. And if it hasn’t run out yet — don’t expect it to.
I have the power to make one less ‘almost’ count. I stand by the sand in Venice, look up at the residences wondering who’s there… and then I look at the stars longingly, set on controlling my narrative. And I hold my heart. Don’t shut down — just detach.
And you wait. You go back to your ordinary life, not bitter, not angry, not despairing, not naively wishing — you don’t let it go, because maybe it’s not time to. You let it be. Timing is key.
You wait for an answer when it’s ready, while you also move forward in the other areas of your life that also need adjusting. The thing about ‘almosts’ is they’re painful because they stop before they start. But sometimes they stop instead of end. Then it’s up to your free will to see how long you want to wait. Maybe not every ‘almost’ is a curse. Maybe every ‘almost’ is the opportunity to go all in, but only if you don’t give up first. Maybe every ‘almost’ is a reminder that good things come to those who wait and those who are willing to be brave.
You play back moments where you ‘almost’ felt it was over (a dark, fenced off club area filled with dancing strangers), that you’d only ever be pricked by a quill, but then it simply wasn’t over (giggling and touching forks and clinking wine glasses over small sushi). It’s confusing, but you bite your tongue because maybe what you’ve cooked up isn’t ready yet. You let your fears of being the fool go, and you just keep moving. Hold no expectations, but hold faith that whatever happens, you both will be happy somehow.
Maybe it’ll never be, or maybe it’s that neither of you is ready to say what they need to yet. You’re not living your best life yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t …
But nevertheless, that’s the beauty of actually waiting on an ‘almost.’ All you can affirm for now is how you’re still the ‘queen of almosts,’ but you’re ready at any time to shed that identity. And in the meantime, you’ll save up your storage of thoughtful notes for a day when no one is holding back or at a loss. When it’s not embarrassing to say how you really feel, and when you can pride yourself on the words you’ve spoken that now actually matter.
There’s always been and always will be reasons why you above anyone else, if you only knew. If you only knew all of the intuition I have never had before until now about a soul like yours, always taking my breath away, if you only knew the way I still replay every moment and every word on that cold December night we shared together, the way I hold onto all the small moments when you’ve never made me feel I owe you anything, the way I am curious about every single meaningful project you’re involved in and want to hear it all, the way I’m touched by how you listen to me with your entire heart and soul to ask me the questions no one else ever thinks about, the way you kissed me on the forehead so tenderly, the way I throw my phone across the room in terror of rejection after I summon the strength to tell you I appreciate you, the way you stroked my hair with your eyes shining like you’d never been so happy in god knows how long, the way I am inspired by your strength and perseverance from coming up out of nothing, the way my heart breaks when I see that you never forget to show gratitude despite going through hardship, the way I’m terrified I can’t read your expression when you seem to be nervous around me, the way you make me feel cared for in simply the energy you send my way that makes up for the silence, the way I cried with relief when it turned out this summer that you don’t think I’m crazy, the way I lay in bed lovesick when you ignore me like I’m not good enough, the way I quaked in my boots that you took me somewhere so nice that I could’ve only dreamed of being with you, the way I appreciate that you remember your humble roots in a world of conceit, the way I hear you in every song on the radio about the way love feels, the way I can remember what your laugh sounds like despite only having heard it once like an audio track stuck on repeat, the way even the smallest gesture or smile from you can make me completely melt with glee, the way that I picture holding hands or giggling or walking into a beach sunset and loving your beautiful heart – so rewarding and never a waste of time…. the way that even if you turned away from me forever and shattered my heart, that through that pain I’d still consider this feeling a privilege to hold through, the way I hope someone significant like you still could choose someone insignificant like me, the way I’d go to the ends of the earth to bring you back from the edge of madness, the way I don’t want you to owe me anything but give your love, the way I hope someday to kiss you on the street again the way you did me all those moons ago, the way I hope to confess with my tongue what I want —