Day 292: The Stutter by green and yellow
Day Two Hundred and Ninety-Two.
If there's one thing I never complain about, it's my work. Sometimes I don't like the people I have to deal with, and every so often I don't agree with what people want me to do, but I keep my mouth shut. I can't imagine living life any other way than this, and I don't think I'd be happy if I had to. I like performing. I like writing. I like traveling. I like music. School was never my cup of tea, and I don't have the training to be a professional baseball player, so I feel like this is it for me. This is what I know and love, so I'll take what I can get and, to make my father proud, I'll ‘grin and bear it'.
Like I said, I don't complain about this, not even when I have to wake up at four thirty in the morning or when interviewers consistently pester me about Miley and Selena.
The only thing is that sometimes, I get this déjà vu, and it brings me down. New York City on New Year's Eve is something that everyone should experience once. But in my opinion, once is enough. And we've been here three times in a row, and every time it's pretty much the same. I'm not complaining; that's just the way it is. For once, I'd like to spend New Year's at home. I'd like to be with people I know instead of a million screaming strangers. I want a date, and I want to kiss her exactly at midnight, just to see what all the fuss is about. I want to start off the year in my own bed with my dog sleeping loyally beside me on the floor.
These are just wishes, though. I'd never tell anybody.
2010 was rung in the same way as 2009 and 2008. I suppose I didn't mind so much as Kevin and Joe, because at least I wouldn't have had a date even if there was the opportunity to have one. I think I'm more comfortable in front of a camera than they are because I'm already a calculated person to begin with, and acting outlandishly isn't my style. Even on New Year's, I can express my joy with a fist-punch in the air and a simple smile, and I'd do it that way whether a camera was on me or not. Joe and Kevin are different. Joe was bursting to do something crazy and energetic, like jump off a two-storey building into a pile of snow. Like me, Kevin would prefer a quieter setting to spend New Year's - but that's only because he'd want to launch into a lengthy discussion about the best New Year's moments of all time, which would then morph into a discussion of the best years of all time, and by the end of the night, everyone would have heard his entire life story for the twentieth time, full of trivial details that no one on Earth could ever possibly care to know. (Why is it important to recount the story of the watch he received for his birthday in second grade and lost by Christmas? He told that one every time, and I didn't get it. It was a five-dollar Scooby Doo digital watch and had no sentimental value whatsoever. No one would ever care about that story. It was more pointless than a circle, and that's saying something).
Needless to say, it was evident that all three of us were happy to get away from Times Square between one and two in the morning. It briefly entered my mind to call Pep and wish her a Happy New Year - she was ringing in the party at her grandparents' house, and I figured she'd appreciate a pick-me-up. Other than that, I wanted to go to bed and get as far away from Kevin as possible. If he didn't shut up, he wouldn't live to see 2011.
"As great as it would be to have a cold one right now, I think I'd be even happier for some Starbs," he was saying to no one in particular. Even our parents were ignoring him. Joe was lucky he didn't have to tolerate this. He was meeting up with Sam, the girl he'd met the night I first kissed Rainie.
(Side-note: ‘Starbs' was the lazy way of saying ‘Starbucks'. It sounded much less intelligent and in my opinion, Kevin belonged right in the middle of a chick flick, or as he called them, ‘rom coms').
(Side-note #2: ‘Rom com' translates to ‘romantic comedy'. It's shameful that I know this).
"Caramel macchiato... that would make my life," he continued. "Hey, did you guys get to talk to Miley?"
This earned him a scowl from me. "Do I talk to Miley?" I asked in irritation.
"Not you," he replied condescendingly, "I was talking to Mom."
I shifted my glare from Kevin to Mom, expectantly awaiting her response.
"Oh, it was too busy," Mom answered. "Maybe we'll catch her tomorrow. If not, I'll call when we get home."
Kevin shrugged, his mind instantly drifting to a new topic. "I wonder where Jesse ended up. He told me he was going out after; I should've asked him where he was headed. You know who I could've sworn I saw? Nicole Richie. I don't know if she was really there, maybe it was just a figment of my imagination, but I swear I saw her - did you see the girl in the white coat? I was pretty sure it was her-"
"Wait, what is this?" I interrupted Kevin, staring furiously at my mother. "Why will you be calling Miley?"
"Not Miley, her parents," she responded, stopping in the hallway of our hotel to yawn. I waited with her, my eyes demanding answers. "For our barbecue in a couple of weeks, honey." She patted my head with tired eyes and continued on down the hall.
"The barb," Kevin echoed her obnoxiously. "The bee-bee-cue."
I followed, hot on her heels. "Barbecue...?"
"Mm hmm. Don't act so surprised! I've been wanting to do this for months!" she exclaimed with a laugh.
When I searched my brain (and I'm talking really searched), I could vaguely (vaguely) remember a few instances in the past few months when my mother had spoken words such as ‘barbecue' and ‘potluck'. Fuck me for not paying attention.
"So you invited the Cyrus family?!" I cried.
Outside of her hotel room door, my mother stopped and shook her head in slight annoyance, irritated that I was pestering her. "I'll invite all the families we're close to. We'll invite the Shanahans next week. Honey, don't worry about it. Just go to bed."
Translation: If you shut up and go away, I'll let you bring your ‘little friend' Pep. Please don't bother me about this again.
Why was I always the last to know about these things? And why did I suddenly feel like my mother was conspiring against me? We'd been neighbours with the Cyrus family once upon a fucking fairy tale, but it wasn't like we were best friends.
Ugh. I changed my mind. If there's one thing I can't stand about this business, it's that you can never get away from someone you'd rather avoid until one of your careers fades into oblivion. Miley's not that bad, really. But I was planning on waiting six months at the bare minimum for her to get over the Avery issue until I willingly spoke to her again.
Mom kissed me goodnight and handed me the key-card to my room from her purse. It was as I was fumbling with the stupid door (I hate key-cards, it takes at least three tries for the damn light to turn green), that my phone buzzed from inside the pocket of my coat. Eager for an excuse to give up, I dug my hand into my pocket and pulled it out. I can't say I wasn't surprised to see Rainie's name on the caller ID, because that would be a lie. In fact, I had to blink twice to make sure my eyes weren't fogged over with weariness, and only then I was certain that I was reading correctly.
"Hey. I'm surprised I got you," she said casually.
I didn't have anything to say to that. ‘Oh' wouldn't do it justice, and ‘Why are you torturing me?' seemed too blunt.
"Any plans for the night?" she asked.
If I ever stuttered in my whole life, this would have been one of those instances. However, I think ahead, even if it means my responses appear delayed. "It's pretty much over. I'm trying to get into my room as we speak."
"Where are you staying? Are you at the Trump Hotel?" Rainie questioned.
"Sure am. I like it here. It's convenient."
All arrogance aside, I was doing an excellent job sounding nonchalant and indifferent. Even at times when I'm sure I've almost surrendered and laid my dignity to rest, I have the remarkable ability to surprise myself.
"Oh. Good." Rainie sounded deflated, as if my choice of hotel had greatly disappointed her. Then again, maybe it was the indifference with which I presented it to her that she didn't like. I hoped I was driving her crazy. She deserved to get a taste of her own medicine every once in a while.
The light on the door flashed green as I swished the card through the slot. "Sweet. I'm in," I told her, as if it would cheer her up. I pushed open the door to my room and took a few steps inside.
There was silence on the line for a few moments as I threw my coat onto the bed and rustled through the pockets for my wallet. If Rainie was waiting for me to make conversation, she could suck it and she could suck it hard. I told her the ball was in her court, and I had to make it appear like I meant what I said. I'll be damned if I was the one to initiate something.
"Hey Nick?" she asked quietly, her voice surprisingly innocent and timid.
"I'm staying in the same hotel."
I gulped, wanting so badly to ask her if I could pay her a visit. How had I not known that she was here? I should have put two and two together. Before Christmas, she'd told me in her apartment that she was accompanying Jesse to NYC.
"Oh yeah?" I asked, my throat running dry. "Were you at Times Square earlier tonight?"
"For some of it. I saw you perform."
I wasn't performing anywhere near Jesse. Ka-ching.
Pausing, I shut my eyes tightly and reopened, preparing myself to say, "Did you have fun?"
"I thought about what you said to me."
I didn't know exactly what she was referring to, because I'd said a lot of things to her. Loosely aware that she was referring to the last time we met in her apartment, I struggled to remember the things I'd said. All I could remember was, ‘The ball's in your court'.
When I didn't answer, she continued, "Can I meet you somewhere?"
My breath hitched, but I managed to croak out, "Why?"
She sighed - whether it was out of annoyance or reluctance, I couldn't be sure. After all, she was Mystery Girl. Nothing with her was certain. "Jesse and I are done, okay? We broke up. And right now, you're the only person I... trust in this city. I want to see you."
hesitated before saying trust. What the hell did that mean? Trust was supposed to be a good thing, but she'd spat it out like it was a dirty word, like ‘rape' or ‘pap smear' or ‘mushroom cut'.
Well, there was no choice now. It was obvious what I had to do. Fuck giving Rainie the silent treatment; I was back in the game. Full throttle. Fast and furious. Die hard. Mission NOT impossible.
"Okay," I agreed.
That's how I ended up standing in front of Rainie two floors below my hotel room five minutes after the call. I had experienced a mild panic attack in my room, and it was lucky that Joe wasn't there to make fun of me. After a minute or so, I realized that I was acting like a thirteen-year-old girl, so I got a glass of water from the bathroom, chugged it, checked my hair, and went on my merry way.
And by ‘merry', I mean tense and awkward. The bright side is that when Rainie opened the door and let me in, I channelled the tension and awkwardness into coolness and collectedness. I reminded myself who I was.
Shutting the door behind her, Rainie released another heaving sigh while offering me a sad smile. "You win, Nick Jonas."
I shrugged. "Win what?"
Where was I supposed to stand? I was situated in the middle of the room with no real purpose - no chair to sit on, no desk to lean against. I felt oddly exposed and vulnerable.
Those weren't the words I wanted to begin our relationship.
"You're not a prize," I muttered with a frown.
"Aren't I?" she asked with a wry smile, just as a strand of hair fell from behind her ear.
For some reason, I wasn't in the mood for another puzzling conversation with Mystery Girl at two in the morning on New Year's. Possibly because my brain was functioning slower the more tired I became, or possibly because I was fed up with this shit. At first, the mystery intrigued me - now it just pissed me off. Who speaks in fucking puzzles all the time? Puzzles are a piece of crap. Unless you're under the age of seven or above the age of seventy, puzzles are totally useless.
"Hey Nick, want to come over tonight?"
"Nah, sorry, I think I'll just stay in a do a puzzle."
See what I mean? Puzzles are useless. At least on real puzzles, they give you the picture on the outside of the box so you know what the finished product will look like. Nobody gave me a finished picture of Rainie. Nobody told me what I was supposed to be aiming for, and the lack of guidance was aggravating beyond belief.
"No," I told her irritably, fighting hard to control the scowl that was itching to wash over my face. "Honestly, Rainie, I already told you everything I had to say. I'm tired of playing games. I'm not trying to win you. I want you to want to be with me."
But if there was a competition between Jesse and I, then I definitely emerged victorious. Just sayin'. Cedric Diggory was crushed after all. Harry Potter always wins. Never mess with the kid with the bolt-shaped scar. Lightning bolts are badass.
Rainie continued smiling, and I was confused again. Didn't my bubbling irritation irk her at all?
"Why would I ask you here if I didn't want to be with you?" she returned.
I thought about this for a moment. Then I took a step towards her, eyeing her suspiciously as I pointed a finger in accusation. "You better not be teasing me again."
To my surprise, she chuckled. "I'm not."
I knew that we definitely had more to talk about. There was more to discuss, more to work out - but in that moment, all I could think of was that Rainie was finally free, and I could kiss her if I wanted to without feeling guilty. So I did. And maybe it was the wrong choice, but I'm glad I did, because I could tell right away that this kiss was different than the others. I felt something. I didn't know what it was, but it was something good. That was why I kept kissing her. I was sure she didn't kiss Jesse like this. She liked me, and not just because I was Nick Jonas the celebrity. I was Nick Jonas, underaged sex on legs with a killer personality to boot. It was different with us.
Rainie placed her hands on my shoulders when our lips parted. "I'm not like one of your Disney princesses, Jonas. I'm not like Miley, or... or that other one." (Selena. She meant Selena). "And I'm not like Pep."
I shook my head quickly, breathing from my mouth. "I never asked you to be."
I kissed her again because I wanted to. Extra points were given to Rainie for allowing me to regain control of her upper lip. When I concentrated, I could kind of hear harps playing in the background. By angels with golden halos. There were trumpets, too. There was a fucking heavenly orchestral parade in my head. And Rainie's hair felt like a cloud. I'd waited so long to touch her hair.
But wait. ‘I'm not like Pep' - what the hell was that supposed to mean? Was that a sneaky attack on Pep, or was that a condescending way to remind me that my choice of friends was sub-par? Rainie was stressing all the wrong words tonight. Did she really think that after nine months, I hadn't yet realized that was she was unlike everyone else? Didn't she realize that that was why I was drawn to her? If she was anything like Pep and that was what I wanted, I would have said ‘fuck you' to Rainie a long time ago and gone for Pep instead.
This irked me. I pulled away. "Why would I want you to be?"
Confusion washed over her face. When she remembered what we'd been discussing before the (mind-blowing) kiss, she stammered, "It's just... you spend so much time with her, it's hard not to think..." She shook her head. "Never mind. It doesn't matter."
But it did. It mattered to me.
"Is this Nicholas Jerry Jonas?" Pep asked when she answered her phone.
I chuckled, leaning against the closed door in my own hotel room. "Yep."
"Still awake at this ungodly hour?"
"I waited until it was January first in both our time zones," I said proudly. It was true. It was 3:04 a.m. in New York.
She giggled before saying, "Let me just switch rooms." I could almost picture her holding the phone away from her mouth as she yelled to her family, "Just a sec! It's Nick!" There was shuffling on the line, and I waited patiently. Finally she returned with a breathless, "Hi."
"Happy New Year, Pepper."
"Happy New Year," she repeated.
It's funny that sometimes, just from the sound of a person's voice, you can hear what they look like. It doesn't make sense when it's put into words, but it's true. I could hear Pep glowing.
With a smile, I inquired, "How are the grandparents?"
"Old. No fun. It's okay though, me and Carter are playing President with our cousins."
"Way to ring in the new year."
"Hey," she laughed. "Dick Clark called and asked me to perform on his show, but I'd already made these plans. I'm sorry you didn't get any other New Year's invitations, Nick."
I sucked in a breath. "Actually, I did."
Still smiling, I replied, "From Rainie."
"And you're calling me when you could be with her?" Pep demanded in disbelief.
"I had to check up on you," was my excuse. "Grandparents throw the wildest parties. Anything can happen. Had to make sure you were still breathing."
There was a pause. Eventually, Pep blurted out, "So what happened?"
"Well..." I trailed off, smirking at the suspense. "She broke up with Jesse."
Pep gasped. I always thought that the only purpose of a gasp was when the nerdy (but beautiful) girl finally got revenge on the bitchy cheerleader at the end of 90's movies. But I was wrong - this was a genuine gasp, and I can't say I didn't enjoy the dramatic effect it added to my miraculous tale.
"And..." I added before she could say anything, "... we're basically dating."
"What?!" Pep cried. "How did this happen?!"
"I don't know!" I exclaimed. I pushed myself away from the door and walked further into the room, realizing that I was still smiling as I looked into the mirror. "She called me and told me, so I went to see her."
"So she breaks up with one boyfriend, and then twenty minutes later she's got another one?"
It was my turn to gasp. (I liked the way it sounded). "Don't ruin this for me. This is good, Pep."
"I know," she agreed. "But I just..."
She didn't sound as excited for me as I'd expected.
"It seems really fast. Maybe you should give her time to get over Jesse," she suggested.
Pep and her shitty advice. Tsk, tsk.
"What's to get over? She's fine. She was happy tonight."
"But she just broke up with him. It's barely even sunk in. Have you guys even talked about this?"
All I wanted was to call Pep, wish her a Happy New Year, and tell her how great my New Year was starting off. I didn't need this aggravation, not from her.
"Sort of. There wasn't really time," I answered absently. "What's to discuss? I like her, she likes me, we can finally be together."
"What will your parents say?"
I scoffed. "I'll deal with it later."
"What about her sex life?"
"What about it?"
"Well... she has one. You don't."
I sighed in annoyance. "Yeah, we haven't really gone over that yet."
"What about when you guys are seen together in public? Everyone knows she dated Jesse. You'll get a bad rep!" Pep pointed out.
"We can be sneaky about it," I assured her.
"What about all the times she's snubbed you? She goes from hot to cold all the time, how can you be sure-"
"Who are you, Katy Perry?" I interrupted angrily. "Stop questioning me! I'll deal with it later, okay?"
Another silence. Pep asked in a small voice, "Is this why you called me?"
"I called to wish you a Happy New Year." I paused. "And to tell you about Rainie."
"So you're really together?"
I began to remove my shoes once I'd sat on the bed. "I think so."
The next silence lasted longer. The silences were starting to worry me. I'd never had uncomfortable silences with Pep before. It wasn't her style. Nothing was uncomfortable with her.
After what seemed like forever, she asked, "Are you happy, Nick?"
"Uh..." I trailed off as I thought about it. Rainie had confused me, and I still wasn't entirely sure where we stood, but I was better off than I had been three hours before - right? "Uh, yeah."
And then, even though Pep couldn't see me, I froze as I stared at the lamp on the nightstand, my mind reeling.
Did I just stutter?
I never stuttered. Stuttering was for the weak. For people who didn't think things through. For people who didn't have enough to say, so they filled up silences with words like ‘uh' and ‘um' and long pauses.
There was no way in hell I hadn't thought this through. Jesus, I'd been thinking this through for almost three hundred days!
"Okay," Pep said, sounding resigned. "Then I'm happy for you. I hope it works out."
As if I was getting revenge on myself for stuttering, I announced with conviction, "It will."
"I better get back to my card game."
My gaze remained fixated on the light bulb in the lamp.
Another silence. "... bye, Nick."
I suppose I should have instigated the goodbyes, but I was too lost in my thoughts. To make it up to her, I said quietly, "Happy New Year, munchkin."
And it would be happy. There wasn't a reason to question why it wouldn't be... right?
My high was gone as quick as it had arrived, and it was all because of the stutter.