Chasing Another Anna
by Joe Ruelos

[Warning: this is an unfinished and unedited work in progress. 12/23/03]

Well, what can I say? History almost always repeats itself. Almost. There's always new stuff that comes around and, just because we "feel" older (and sometimes wiser), we feel that things are different or cannot be like they were in the past. As the saying goes... SSDD, which means, loosely put "same story, different day" -- although I'm sure other people may use different language to reach the same conclusion.

One day, I intend to write about quite another interesting time in my life that takes place towards the end of the year 2003. If you've read Chasing Anna, and if you thought that was rather boring, then you might have more fun reading this more recent tale. You'll find a more daring me (at least superficially) and you'll find me less fearful (I actually talk to this new Anna AND I practically live with her for almost two weeks!). However, as alluded to above, we'll find out how I still haven't grown up completely on two important fronts: 1) not knowing how to ask for what I really want gracefully and before it's too late; and 2) not being able to accept the "status quo" when it's NOT what I really want.

In short, I met Anna Buschman in the middle of October 2003. At the time, I considered becoming a professional poker player after watching the World Series of Poker broadcast on ESPN. My small circle of friends (including my cousins Armando and Louis) started playing Texas Hold'Em using monopoly money as practice before we played for real money. I spent more hours playing heads-up (one on one) with my friend Ruben. We finally reached a point where the monopoly paper cash was a burden, and I was inspired to get a hold of some real poker chips.

So, one day in mid-October 2003, Ruben and I stroll on over to the mall in Towson (known as Towson Town Center), without much of a clue as to where to find chips. What's interesting is that there was a small chance that I wouldn't have gone to buy chips at the mall, or even at all (because of financial guilt). There was even a small chance that we could have gone to another mall. Talk about your existentialist "choose your own adventure" hind-sight. So many what-if's are popping into my mind now as I write this; e.g., how different would my life be now if I had bought chips on-line, or if Ruben and I went to Arundel Mills mall to buy chips. Essentially, the "choice" of our path led us to Towson Town Center, and what would eventually lead to bliss and tragedy all within one calendar quarter.

We ended up going to the Wizards of The Coast store at Towson Town Center, and we made out with a pretty good deal on poker chips and a casino-style deck of cards. Thinking I was set for the rest of the year, I was ready to leave and start playing. But Ruben inisted on visiting a friend who worked a few stores down. Completely being myself, totally absorbed in the thought of playing cards with real poker chips, I wasn't all too inspired with going to meet his friend, a girl he had met at some music event. But Ruben insisted, appealing to my animalistic self with "dude, this girl is hot", citing an outright comparison to Marilyn Monroe. Figuring to myself (what do I have to lose but five minutes), I decided to go with Ruben to meet her, considering of course that my history with "hot chics" was more or less non-existent.

So we went a few stores down to Impostors, billed as a "fake-jewelry store". And there she was, what would be the bane of my fourth quarter 2003, that which would bring me up (mood-wise and perhaps socially) where I hadn't been for several years, and that which would bring me down to unseasonably low tide. Each beamed a smile to the other and offered the usual pleasantries. I stood there, approached at arm's length, with my Wizards of the Coast bag held proudly, as I felt there could be no greater joy than being able to soon play with real poker chips like the pro's on TV do. I was left out of the conversation for a brief few minutes as the two "caught up". And then Ruben introduced me, "Anna, this is my friend Joe." Or something to that effect, anyway.

And I was like, "Yeah, nice to meet you. Look I bought poker chips, and I want to go play now." Despite how awkward that encouter was, Ruben somehow got me "in" by mentioning that I'm a musician of sorts; and, even though I played modest mouse, I saw a glimmer in her eye when she discovered that I play piano, and furthermore jazz piano. And she went on a little bit about her wild gambling antics, and she helped me remove the plastic covering around my poker chips, and we spent a few moments feeling the chips in our hands for the first time, at her store. After the excitement wore off, we exchanged numbers in the hope of doing music and poker in the future.

Of course, I thought nothing of it, other than a brief moment of animalistic excitement -- boy she really was hot as Ruben said. However, I felt nothing could come out of it, so I didn't bother calling her up to see if she was serious about the music thing. Lo and behold, she called back about a week later, and our friendship began to develop shortly after that.

Down the road you'll find that we became pretty good friends, almost qualifying as "best friends", a term she threw out as being the most "we could ever be". Blah! So one cold, on-the-brink-of-snow day in early December, I let envy, greed, and pride get the best of me, under a fairly stressful situation, and almost mutually, we decided to relinquish our friendship... i.e., throw it out the window for silly reasons.

Someday I will fill in the gaps between the last two paragraphs there, and oh there is a lot to tell. Tales of gambling, drinking, philosophying, etc, and even a small stint where we tried to organize a jazz+vocal lounge act. And who knows, maybe there will be more to tell after this paragraph. But that might only happen if I am to let go of my pride and admit I was being selfish.

Meanwhile, here is a gay poem I wrote about poker.

Here is a sketch of Anna as a toddler in Missouri.

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