That Time I Drove to Denver

You were right all along. It nearly killed me the first time I admitted that to myself. You were right. It was meant to be, but not forever. In the spiraling self-destruction you set in motion I found peace. As you choked the oxygen out of my lungs you used it to light a fire in my soul. You knew that was your purpose, our raison d’etre.

But it didn’t start that way. It was blind passion. Or, blind ignorance? Naivete? It was so many things. If we ever agreed on anything it was that meteoric push toward each other at breakneck speed. It was a freedom I’d never felt before. The encouragement in your constant reminders that I had a choice. Every day I had a choice in how I wanted to live my life. I could choose what kind of father I wanted to be. I was overcome with the sudden realization that I didn’t have to be this or that. Unlimited possibilities were laid at my feet and you openly invited me to consider each one.

The oxygen you would eventually rob from me you breathed into me with unwaiting breath. It gave me the strength to break my chains of mid-western protestantism. That invisible box that so many of us are told we aren’t allowed to leave. It was raw power. A sledgehammer of individualism. It was the boulder I threw at those glass walls and shattered everything I’d ever known about myself.

1-ba7wJTffFq8aPESip4RCzwDriving on 70 across the country all alone was liberating in itself. Maybe my first real road trip, and there was no one to share it with. I sang along to Nirvana, hummed to Coltrane, drummed the steering wheel to Wilco. Every time I hear Impossible Germany I think of falling asleep on the plane the last time I flew out to see you. But then I was driving. I left everything behind. Everything.

When you wrapped your arms around me as I made breakfast my heart melted. I felt so loved. Genuinely loved. Deeply. It was like a dream, being wrapped up in you. For months, being unable to contain ourselves until we got home. Being lost in each other’s eyes for hours, never bored. Always thirsty for more. And we drank, we drank as much of ourselves as we could. We were hungry with greed and selfishness.

I remember the smell of the hot springs where we stayed in a cabin, just the two of us. Sitting curled up with each other under so many stars, wrapped in our naked embrace, bathing in bubbling mineral water. I remember the stress leave me that night. I remember giving it up. I remember you telling me to relax, to embrace it. I remember the love we created that night and the way your eyes shined in the starlight. The smell of the pine trees and the whistle of the wind. I remember realizing we were not sustainable. I remember waking up from the dream.

I wanted to face reality and you wouldn’t let me. I wanted you to wake up too. You wanted me to go back to sleep. My questions pushed you so you pushed back. I was aware of the ripped walls of my heart, of the things I’d left behind. You wanted me to forget. You expected me to ignore the signs. It wasn’t fair to think you could carry it all for both of us. It was awful, watching two suns collide. Hearing each other’s thoughts made it worse. We were so similar. So lost. We were perfectly imperfect.

After I left you cried and told me that it would get better. That we’d figure it out. I tried, but it was just another lie. I was angry at you for lying to me. I wouldn’t recognize those lies as the greatest truths I’d ever known until much later. Those last few months I thought it was the end. I thought I couldn’t go on. I thought I’d failed completely. I begged for help on the floor of my apartment. I scrambled in my hallucinations to find the blanket of comfort you’d stolen from me. You left and you took everything I’d tried to rebuild. I clawed through the dirt on my knees, with bare hands, digging for my soul.

When you told me between tears you thought this was your purpose I didn’t believe you. I knew you were right and I didn’t believe you. How could I? How could I know someone so completely, who knew me so completely? Why would the universe torture us with bliss and set off our supernova of destruction? This gut-wrenching love was just to teach us a lesson? We were supposed to learn something? But you were right. It was the only way to evolve. For me, anyway. It was the only way to be sure we’d burned all of the poison out my blood.

A lot of days I find myself wondering what you got out of it. I want to find you and ask you if you remember. If it meant as much to you as it did to me. I want to hear you tell me you love me so deeply, and see the lie in your eyes. I don’t talk about you because I can’t. It’s impossible to describe your smile, your eyes, the kisses you’d use to wake me up. I can’t do it without crying. I want to tell everyone it was just a fool’s errand. That I was just looking for an escape and you happened to be there as an excuse. There is no way to paint the picture, or draw the chart that would accurately depict the depth of the intelligent universe I discovered because of you. I don’t talk about you because I don’t want to have to lie.

You were right. You were right all along. We weren’t meant to last. I’ve learned to love you as part of my journey. I’ve learned to appreciate you as my greatest pivot point. I’ve learned to be grateful for the violent shove you gave me as you pushed me over my cliff. I’ve learned to smile when I see your face everywhere. I’ve learned to accept that when we see each other in the next life, it will be better.

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