Pi Day is celebrated today because of the date: 3/14. Pi, at its simplest, is the measurement around a circle, divided by the measurement across the circle: the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. We all know it as 3.14, but the exact digits of Pi can never truly be known.
I know. I know. I know.
Scene I. Late night, a messy room, flat ginger ale, and three candles lit on the windowsill. I’m listening to a mix tape from 2003. Nobody can hear it but me. The neighbor’s wandering cat that likes to leave feces on the roof of my car-she’s not purring tonight. The coffee shop down the street is closed, but the air is still full of Italian roast and blueberry scones. This is where I dwell now. A small town, a dark flat, an entirely different life.
I suddenly remembered a scene from a show I used to watch. The main character was a cynical anthropologist. She said, “Objects are just objects. They have no power, and are not linked to anything or anyone.” Maybe she was right. This mix tape I’m listening to is just another worthless piece of matter Alexis left behind. A category that I guess includes me.
Being an insomniac didn’t permit me visitation rights with everyone else in sleepland, and I should have taken a couple melatonin pills but instead I started digging through old shoeboxes. After emptying out three, I saw a purple box with the word “Blowfish” printed on the lid. There was a small post-it that read, “DON’T OPEN” stuck to it. When do I ever listen to myself?
I took out the first mix tape I saw, recognizing Alexis’s left-handed-all-caps printing on the label. It was the first tape she had made me. This would have been a good time for my conscience to make an entrance but even the rational side of me is lucky enough to sleep. I carefully inserted the tape into my Walkman and made my way to the recliner in the living room. All of a sudden I had company. Just me and Alexis and some tunes she picked out.
The first medley: The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s love child after finally hitting that magical E minor chord that essentially made the song. The Beatles were my father’s favourite band and evidently Alexis’s father’s favourite band as well.
Alexis titled the tape “JACK SHOULD BE MY BOYFRIEND.” There’s no need for an explanation, since my name happens to be Jack. She used thin coloured sharpies to write the names and artists down. She also wrote this pleasant doctrine on the top:
“I hope you haven’t heard of these bands/songs/artists. They all remind me of you.”
Even early on, she knew that simple, kind words were the way to my corrosive heart. We made a lot of mix tapes while we were together. Tapes for anniversaries, tapes for road trips, tapes for homework nights. I kept them all. I think I have more mix tapes from her than I do underwear.
I met Alexis in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when we were both students. When The Cure’s “Pictures Of You” came on at Sweetwaters, she was the only other person in the room who suddenly smiled. So we drank passion fruit black tea and talked about music. We exchanged stories about our families, shows we had been to and both agreed that our encounter in such a desolate town had to have meant something monumental was about to happen. Alexis couldn’t eat breakfast because food that early in the day would upset her stomach. This worked out since I started work at 4 AM every day. Breakfast wasn’t a part of my daily routine. She loved The Misfits and Rachael Yamagata and Kurt Cobain. So did I.
She loved Mickey Avalon. I hated Mickey Avalon. That was probably the only potential dealbreaker.
On our first outing I was frank enough to ask her if my double-digit number of ex-lovers bothered her. She made a left turn and said, “If you weren’t you, I’d have a problem with it.” I told her the same thing I’ve told every single girl I’ve ever liked: “Fair warning, I’m a writer.” Honestly I thought things would have ended the way all the others did: stained bed sheets and threats like, “I’m going to get my brother to kick your ass.” I was wrong, but shit, I didn’t mind.
Falling in love with Alexis was not the kind of war you can walk away from in one piece. I didn’t stand a chance. She would wake up in the middle of her slumber and say things like, “Did you plug in the night light? or “Where do you suppose I can buy a yellow raincoat to dress up as the salt girl for Halloween?” Inquiries in which I followed up with “I don’t know, let me ask my father since this is something he should have informed me about while growing up.” What I really meant was that he should have prepared me for this kind of earth-shattering companionship. She’d fall back to sleep, while my insomnia kept me awake, giving thanks to anyone who would listen for this alien in my bed.
Alexis was a real simple Disney-promoting beachside lady. Her favourite song was “Orange Marmalade” by Mellowdrone. She supported any team that Steve Nash played on and didn’t know how to pump gas. She never licked envelopes, tucking the flap inside instead. She could imitate Chewbacca better than any Star Wars fanatic I knew and hated hardwood floors. She preferred eating at home and dyed her hair red because Charlie Brown’s crush was referred to as “the little red-haired girl.” Her mothball-gardenia infested smell was better than Suavitel fabric softener on a rainy day.
Women from the countryside have a reputation for advertising the significance of morality. Alexis was from the countryside, fifteen years younger than me in heart. She was born on January 8th, the same day as David Bowie, in the rural area of Lowell, Indiana. She grew up in southeast Michigan, with her parents, Andrew and Linda, and her little sister. When she was five, Andrew built her a tree house, where she spent her summers reading works by Ray Bradbury. She had weak knees, curly bourbon-coloured hair and a bunny named Montana. The first record she ever owned was Johnny Cash’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around.” Johnny Cash was her first love. I was her last.
I was a withdrawn, lanky, brusquely agnostic dweeb from Aurora, Colorado. I’d never met anybody like Alexis before. I moved to Ann Arbor for undergrad studies, with a bucket full of plans that did not include a whirlwind love affair. The humidity during the summers were harrowing, but spending them with Alexis made the climate bearable. We took our cameras and leftover college funds to the farmers’ market in the Kerrytown district. I was only twenty and life was already passing me by.
I remember this song. Grenadine’s “In A World Without Heroes.” Grenadine wasn’t even a real band but they somehow managed to produce a ballad that I won’t be able to forget. Alexis would put the song on repeat before bedtime. It was her way of reminding me that even though she couldn’t keep up with my sleeplessness, she still loved me. I was lucky to be her guy for a while.
Alexis loved to do the same things I did. Meeting someone that enjoyed the silence of lackluster nights was as unconventional as dipping banana chips in fish sauce. We were comfortable talking about things and never doing them. Our adventures consisted of impulsive bike rides, choosing Mountain Dew code red over Coke and Pepsi, and reading next to each other on the floor. Before Alexis, I was just another hermit wolfboy, apathetic to life, holing up in my room with my records and paint brushes. One of Alexis’s friends asked her, “Jack wears glasses since he does everything in the dark, right?” She said, “No, he wears a Walkman.” I was the real life version of Charlie from Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which happens to be one of my favourite novels. And because I was a chronic wallflower, I never imagined anyone else to be. Alexis happened and suddenly, I was lobbed into this girl’s effortless, elating, electrifying life. Every gardenia in my mother’s garden, every airplane that flew over my house, every song that came on my record player, all seemed to be Marie Browning in To Have and Have Not, asking the same question: “Who was that girl, Steve? The one who left you with such a high opinion of women.”
Another song. Tom Petty’s “Jack.” It was a song about a man getting his baby back, no matter what Jack said. Alexis had an affinity for Tom Petty, which I found ironic since he was part of the The Heartbreakers. She would say that the release of “Here Come’s My Girl” in 1978 was a foreshadowing of our dysfunctional relationship.
I’ve been listening to JACK SHOULD BE MY BOYFRIEND all night. Tegan and Sara’s “I Know I Know I Know” is the last track. Alexis put the song on by accident, forgetting that I had been the one to introduce the ballad to her in the first place. The candles on my windowsill have gone out. I have to admit, music was the steady connection that kept us together, so now music is the only thing that can keep her with me.
We met on April 18th, 2003. We almost got married on November 4th, 2005. I imagine that we would have stayed together for another seven years, enough time for her to bring me to her high school reunion. I was cheated out of that, just as much as the world got cheated out of Alexis. She didn’t have the chance to see me for the romantic I really was. I came home to Joy Division’s “You’re No Good For Me” after taking a sabbatical to change my sardonic ways. By then it was too late.
Nowadays, the fear of forgetting anything about Alexis is razor-sharp. I have dreams about her lacing up combat boots, her shadow behind a blurry shower curtain. My heart starts to pound, trying to recall her scent, her laugh, her weight. The last time I saw her, she rested her head on my lap. I breathed her in as hard as my lungs allowed and left knowing that I had lost the only woman that my brain tissue wanted to store. I can only count on the music to bring her back now. Press play.