WHERE WORDS FAIL / Writing / Writing Excerpts


Today, a mere day after The Call to Off-Tune, as I walk Rhyan and Dylan back to their apartment with Kip, I make a decision for positive action. In my opinion, too many times, people get complacent with their lives and don’t even consider the fact that what needs to change in them is the way they’re approaching things.

So I’m going to approach Rhyan about the lack of gravity surrounding our non-relationship.

Why? Because I’m complacent and that’s bad. I’m also a masochist. That’s also bad.

Dylan and Kip are a few yards in front of us, Dylan on Kip’s back, when I throw my arm haphazardly around Rhyan’s shoulders. Her arm goes around my waist, fingers curling into my shirt, nails biting lightly into my rib.

“You’re thinking too hard about something,” she says.

And if that’s not a sign then I don’t know what is.

As she runs her hand up and down near my waist, she says, “What you got on the brain, frijole?”

I laugh. “You.”

“Me. What about me?”

“I don’t know,” I say. Even though I do. I exhale. “We’re friends, right?”

“Singer, of course we’re friends. You’re one of my best. I mean, I know Kip would karate chop me in the throat if I ever tried to take his place as your number one, but I’d like to think I’m a close second. Or like, a not too distant third.” She’s quiet a moment and then says, “Or…maybe a somewhat visible fourth.” She laughs but it’s nervous.

“You’re like an I-can-still-see-you-but-not-without-my-glasses fifth.”

She pulls away and punches me in the shoulder.

It’s a nice punch too and “Ah! God, I’m sorry! Bad joke.”

“Your worst ever, and that’s saying something because you’ve told a lot of unfunny jokes, Cash Gabriel.”

“That’s low, Rhyan Elizabeth.”

This time she wraps both arms around me as we walk. It’s a little awkward until I pull her as close as two people can get and still keep moving forward at the rate we are. Symbolism, if ever that was some that could represent us.

“So, I was thinking we should go to dinner or something?” Understand me when I say, this is the worst possible way to phrase a “let’s go on a date” question. Reason number one is that girls like Rhyan don’t like to have things left up to them, not when it’s a situation like this. If you pose it like a question, it seems like you’re unsure. They like to be told in a way that screams confidence. For example, “We’re hanging out tomorrow night.” And the chick would say, “Oh, are we?” Which then gives you the in to finish up with the nail in her dating coffin: “We definitely are.”

And any girl worth her salt will either put you in your goddamned place by laughing in your face and saying no, or if she’s shy, she may wait and flake on you at the last minute, not entirely comfortable with how assertive you were. Either way, she’ll let you know. And the decision, at that point, will have been hers.

But phrasing that question the way I have will not do you any favors. It’s like stripping down to your underwear and begging a girl, from your knees, to date you.

Which is essentially what I’ve done. My only saving grace is that Rhyan has seen the contents of my underwear drawer—literally—and she approves of the large number of Batman boxer briefs. I think that’s maybe why I like her so much.

“Cash, we just had pizza at Joey D’s last night.”

“Yeah, but that’s Joey D’s. Their pizza tastes like cardboard and you went there in one of my hoodies and sweatpants.”


“You had a Neutrogena nose strip on.”

“You said it didn’t make me look like a freak!”

“It didn’t,” I say. Honestly, it didn’t. God, I just wanted to pull her to me and kiss her. There’s this lyric in a song about a girl being her prettiest when she’s in sweatpants and no makeup. To use a cliche, it’s fucking true. Rhyan in sweatpants… Mercy. I fucking call mercy.

I stop and turn to her. Kip and Dylan are far ahead of us now, but I can still hear them laughing and cursing at each other in the distance.

“I’m doing this all wrong,” I say.

“Doing what? Singer, what’s your deal, you weirdo? Tell me what’s going on in that overly-styled head of yours.”

Okay, this has to be handled delicately. I have to get it just right. “Date me.” FUCKKK, I RUINED IT!

She’s so quiet standing there, I almost think I should start some mouth-to-mouth or something.

She’d probably deck me.

The look on her face is totally deer-in-headlights. “Uh, I… Um, huh? Cash, you can’t… wait. You didn’t… huh?”

I probably could’ve picked a better time to do this. “Look, that was probably not a very good example of my suave, nor are words really working in my favor, but… I think we should get to know each other. I mean, we have fun right? We’re, like, friends, you said it yourself. So why not take the next step? See where it goes?”

I pick up her hand and take a step toward her, smiling just a little. But then she does the one thing that should have mapped out every single future scenario of our relationship moving forward.

She pulls away like my touch burns her and says, angrily, “Don’t,” before starting to walk away.

I’d like to say that, normally, I’d cut my losses, but I don’t have things like this happen to me on a normal basis. It’s not that I never get turned down, it’s that I haven’t ever felt the need to pursue a girl with this much interest.

I grab her wrist before she can get too far and pull her back to me. “Don’t? Don’t? Why, Rhyan. What’s wrong with trying to be more than friends?”

“Because I just… I don’t see you like that.”

“If that’s really true, if you can’t see yourself dating me, if you’re not attracted to me—”

“No. I am—I mean, I do find you attractive. But I… It is just…  we’re friends right? And I don’t want to ruin this because my head’s not in the right place.”

“Oh come on, Rhyan. You’re not that girl. You don’t get to play that cliche against me.”

“Well, can’t you accept that we’re friends and that’s enough? I only want to be your friend. I like where we are now. I don’t want anything else to change, I’m not good at change, Cash. And if we’re being totally honest, I’m only interested in sex right now. Not attachments.”

Of course. I kind of knew that already.

I think through my words—each one on its own—before I say anything else. “You don’t want anything else with me because you don’t know what it entails. You don’t know it can be better, but I’m telling you that it can be.”

“Let’s pretend, okay? Let’s pretend we never had this conversation,” she says, like I didn’t just say all that before.

“Fine,” I say, shaking my head. I let go of her wrist and walk ahead of her but after about a minute I feel her grab my hand and lace our fingers together. But she doesn’t look at me. She’s holding on so tight. It’s like she’s afraid that what we talked about means we won’t actually be friends anymore. I don’t want her to know that it’s probably true, so when she squeezes my hand, I squeeze back twice.

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