The Tracey Fragments
Kayla was the average type of girl that the average type of American male would go crazy for; a petite white girl with long, brunette hair, a striking face resembling a model, and, most importantly, big breasts. I don’t think there was any guy in AmeriCorps at the time who didn’t want to date Kayla, but Kayla already had a boyfriend back in her home state (Connecticut) and, on top of having a boyfriend in her home state, she also basically had a boyfriend in AmeriCorps (John) and another soon to be playmate, Matt. And, of course, like all pretty girls, she was a bitch. No story would be complete without the bitch. And I don’t feel sorry for saying that because just about everyone on the team called her a bitch and I always stood up for her at the time whenever they did. Until she started being a bitch to me. But none of that matters because she was pretty.
And that’s all that matters.
Kayla could have stopped in the middle of a hall way, pulled her pants down, and took a dump in public and just about all the males on our team would have defended her decision. She could do no wrong. There was no one else who supported her more than Matt. Despite the fact that she was always openly mean to him, he bowed down to her and threw rose petals at her feet.
So it was no surprise that Matt sat with her over me during our road trip back to Iowa for transition. It was expected.
Because of Matt’s infatuation with Kayla, it always took me by surprise when he (supposedly) took interest in me. Once Kayla was bullying him as usual and he openly shouted something along the lines of him stop chasing her and pursue me instead because, as Matt always said, “Courtney is the only person on the team who is nice to me.”
And it was true. There was no one I looked up to and admired more than Matt. I put him on the highest of pedestals. Matt was my first Angel in The Angel Project. I attached to him because, just like me, he was bullied. The Angel Project is basically an experiment I created in 2010 were I pick one person a year to be a guardian angel to. I tend to pick people who are bullied because they remind me of myself. I wanted nothing more than for Matt to be happy. I bought him soup when he was sick (only to find out he didn’t like condensed soup), always complimented him, and always made sure to stand up for him when he was bullied. Falling in love with him was never part of the plan.
I just laughed at the time when he said it though. That was back before we kissed. Matt being with me was simply a joke. Despite his size and doormat reputation, Matt was popular. And I wasn’t.
During transition in Iowa, Matt hung out with his friends (one being Kayla) and did popular kid things while I stayed inside and played Small Worlds in the computer lounge by myself like I did for every transition. It was rather sick how big my crush on Matt became. It was almost awkward. My depression completely disappeared, I constantly smiled and giggled (Yes, giggled. You know that annoying laugh a girl makes when she likes a guy), and it was like a huge bubble of positive energy engulfed my body and spilled over onto anyone else near me. So big, that if you passed me in the hall way, you would either be eaten alive by the bubble or pushed to the wall and squished to death. My only mission during transition was to get closer to Matt.
Sadly, transition only lasted a few days so it didn’t give me much time and, even more sadly, my phone was being a little bitch at the time and didn’t work so I couldn’t contact him that way. My only means of contacting him was to meet up with him face to face so I was determined to find him. However, being a popular kid, he was never in his room when I visited. Once I sat outside his dorm room waiting for him, but he never came. I was tempted to knock, but I was afraid who would answer or if he would answer and think I was a complete psychopath. And, whenever I would meet him, he always busy talking to a friend and rejected my offer when I asked to hang out with him. It got so bad I one day randomly read a list sitting on a counter top.
(Wow, typing this out is making me feel crazy)
It was a list with all the signatures of people who wanted to participate in a volunteer service activity for volunteer hours. We needed a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate from the AmeriCorps program. I read it diligently and, low and behold, Matt’s name was on the list. I already had more than enough volunteer hours so I didn’t even need to sign up, but I signed up anyway just on the off chance that I would get to see him. And it wasn’t just any ol’ feed the hungry type volunteer activity. It was the type of activity any Southern girl such as myself would dread. It was an activity to build cardboard box houses out in the freezing cold with the possibility of sleeping in them over night to ‘walk in the shoes’ of the homeless. My first thought was “FUCK THAT SHIT!” But my desire to see Matt was so strong, I basically signed my life away.
On the day of the activity, Matt was there alright. But not once did he ever talk to me or acknowledge my existence. I even looked at him dead in his eyes and smiled. Still no reply. It was like we were strangers. We were instructed to separate onto teams to build our cardboard houses and, of course, I wasn’t paired onto Matt’s team. Instead, I was thrown onto another team with members of other AmeriCorps teams. Being paired with members of other AmeriCorps teams is like someone deserting you in the middle of a foreign country. It was like someone cut my limbs off and told me to swim. You get so used to working with your teammates, it’s hard to envision working with anyone else. Every team has their own drama, but, when you’re forced to work with other teams, it’s like a part of their drama gets stuck onto you and you suddenly become drenched in Maple 4 drama or Maple 3 drama or Maple 7 drama (our unit was named after trees: Maple) and somewhere along the line you actually become involved in their drama and passionate about it and you can’t figure out why.
I was paired with Allie and Greg, the two love birds, and a peaceful girl by the name of Autumn. I didn’t get to help build the cardboard house though because I immediately jumped on the chance of working on a volunteer project that required me to work inside. I almost shouted “YES!” when they offered me the position. You know, inside where the normal people are and it’s not cold. Yeah. To be honest, I didn’t care much about the project anymore since I didn’t get the chance to work with Matt. I didn’t get the chance to work with my temporary teammates for the project either because I worked inside, but I did get the chance to talk with one. His name was Greg. Greg Cowan, to be exact. He was the only person who made an attempt to talk to me throughout the whole project. My first reaction upon meeting Greg was, “Oh my God, this guy is crazy.”
Greg would soon become a key factor in my life and he is the very main reason why I am alive today to write this. I owe my life to this guy. But I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought he was crazy. We stood outside in the freezing cold preparing to end the volunteer project and Greg stood next to me with a mere white t-shirt on. The organization gave out free coffee and he clenched the coffee cup to his chest. “If you hold something warm over your heart, it warms your blood up when it’s pumped.”, he said while obviously trying to fight the urge to shiver and doing a good job at it, if I do say so myself. He moved around and jumped while explaining that the movement would warm him up and I couldn’t help but think, “Why didn’t you just bring a coat?!” Then he went on about building endurance for the Marines and blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.
If you don’t believe in being talked to death, Greg could prove you wrong. Greg could slip and fall and still be talking while in the motion of falling. Nothing could stop him. While, on the other hand, I was eerily quiet. So quiet, you would forget I was in a room even if I was the only person in the room. If there is anything Greg loved to talk about, it was the military. When he wasn’t talking about the military, he was talking about drugs, and when he wasn’t talking about either, he was talking about me. It seemed that ever since our meeting during that project, Greg grew an immediate infatuation with me and followed me around wherever I went just as I had followed Matt around. It was very rare that anyone ever spoke to me in AmeriCorps. I was weird and I was quiet, but Greg didn’t seem to care.
In fact, just as Matt was crazy about Kayla, Greg was crazy about me. I became Kayla (without the looking like a model and the being a bitch part) and Greg became Matt (without the being fat part). For once, I finally saw life as Kayla had saw it. If I had jumped off a cliff, Greg would have jumped too just as Matt would have jumped off a cliff for Kayla. Just as with Kayla, I could have pulled my pants down and took a shit right on the middle of the floor and Greg would have defended my choice until the day he died.
“Leave her alone! She couldn’t get to the bathroom in time! Let her shit in peace!”, he would yell while waving away the disapproving crowd.
In that moment, in Greg’s eyes, I could do no wrong. To him, I was perfect.
But I didn’t know it at the time. Just as Kayla only saw Matt as a friend, I only saw Greg as being my friend as well. He would watch me play Small Worlds in the computer lab and he would actually watch my favorite movies with me. It almost became a religious event: Heather (another one of my rare AmeriCorps friends), Greg ,and I would spend nights watching movies together or having long talks (which I called “therapy sessions”) and for once I felt a real friendship coming together. Despite my quiet demeanor, Greg actually made an attempt to break through my barriers and ask me personal questions about my life. “What is your favorite color?” “What type of movies do you like?” And it surprised me every time that he would even care. Questions that I wished Matt would ask me, but he never did.
If you are confused, let me break it down: I chased Matt, while Matt chased Kayla, while Greg chased me. Got it? Good.
I figured on about the second day of Greg talking to me that he saw us as being more than friends when he offered to pay for my meal at McDonald’s and continued asking me to go places with him. I could see it in his eyes. He practically had cartoon hearts in his eyes. I immediately explained to him that my heart belonged to someone else while trying not to sound like a bitch. I explained to him that I had a crush on Matt and that Matt had been ignoring me all transition. Surprisingly, he wasn’t offended or sad. He was really nice about it and gave me tips to attract him.
“If you like a guy, sometimes you have to be bold and up front. Some guys don’t pick up on hints.”
Letting him finger my pussy wasn’t evidence to him enough that I like him?!
I always took Greg’s comments to heart. He was like a guru. Once he looked me in the eye and said, “Courtney, you want to know how to can get a man to fall for you?” I actually erected my back and I stood up to hear his answer. I actually hoped that he would give me some hidden secret as to why I had been single for so long and couldn’t find a man. He took a deep breath and said, “All you have to do is smile at him.”
And I sunk back down in my chair in defeat.
“Smile? I’ve been doing that for years and it has got me nowhere.”