Saturday, February 13, 2016

Three stories of love at first sight—for my friend Lily who doesn’t believe that such craziness exists.


It was summer and I was out of high school, but not because I walked with my class, but because I decided high school meant waking up early and at 18, I was generally against such things that required me to be anywhere before noon. My friend, Kristen, was having a hard time at home. I can’t remember what the circumstances were now, but I am sure it involved a disagreement with her father, who was odd in ways that even I didn’t understand at the time, or with one of her two brothers, Daniel, who was a decent guy, or Mike who was not a decent guy and once burned me with a silver tab off a pop can just because I was sitting next to him. Kristen was finished with high school but was only 17, but she could drive and often we rode around in her father’s small two-door something or other. She had started a long distance romantic situation with a guy I had introduced her to a few summer nights before at the river or at the park that I had meet under similar circumstances a few weeks before. There wasn’t much for young girls to do in those days in Wichita so we often found ourselves in whichever park was deemed cool that day by those who were cooler than we were. Brian was a pilot for UPS and 21 or 22 and had just inherited his grandmother’s house in nowhere Iowa, and because Kristen was having issues with her family and I was constantly restless, when Brian offered the house to us while he finished training for UPS, we packed up the car and a kitten that I had recently adopted and my mother hated, burrowed money form my mother for gas and oil and drove through the night. It was a drive that should have taken 6 hours that somehow we turned into 13. 

When we arrived Brian had told us to call his friend, Tony, and that Tony would drive us out to the farm since to get to the farmhouse, back roads had to be taken and many of them were unmarked. We called Tony from a gas station on the edge of town. He was angry on the phone that we had bothered him at work, but agreed to meet us at Wal-Mart and drive us out to the farm. 

We drove into the parking lot of the only Wal-Mart store for hours, and there Tony was laid out of the hood of his car reading Grapes of Wrath. He as long limbed and tan, blonde hair that needed a cut, wearing a Guns-N-Roses shirt, and there was something about him I felt pulled towards. It was most likely the fact he was reading and I preferred boys who read. 

He was still rather annoyed to have to drive us the ten miles out of town, but motioned for us to follow him and as we did he took curves too fast and the dust from the roads flew around and once we did lose him, but he stopped and we caught up.

The house had been empty for a while and was run down and had no electricity or running water—things that Brian had not told us about. It did strangely have a working phone and an outhouse with a moon cut into the door. 

As soon as I opened the car door, my kitten hopped out and took off and as I ran and called for her Tony ran after me and when he caught up with me he coolly said, “Did you lose your Kitty”? And then from behind his back he handed her to me. 

We walked back quietly to the car, and as I went to pull my suitcase out of the hatch, he grabbed it from my hand and it was energy and we both knew, though we didn’t say it till two days later. We spent the next days being so in love I ached when he wasn’t near me. He is the reason I can’t listen to Janis Joplin without seeing a dark rainy night, candles glowing and so much thunder. 

I couldn’t stay there with him though. I left and came back home. I hitch a ride back with a farmer down the road and I cried the whole 6 hours. It was too small of a town for me. And Tony wasn’t ready to leave its quiet safety and easy ways. We tried to stay in touch for a while, but long distance calls were expensive and letters were slow. I don't know where he is now. Which is probably for the best. 


I was recovering from a second time around break-up with a man, DL, whom I had once loved, and who when we broke up the first time 6 years earlier after he told me that our sex felt like sin. But despite such proclamations, I found myself again in deep heartbreak atet he left the second time, and  when  I found out by accident  that a band I was not sure I actually liked, but knew DL loved was playing at a biggish venue in Wichita. I decided to pull myself together and go see that band just to show DL that I didn’t actually care that he had left me again. I was over it. 

I felt ridiculous as soon as I got to the venue. I knew that this ploy of mine was fairly transparent and almost turned around to go back home when I ran into some younger friends of mine at the time who asked if I would buy them beer because they were not yet 21 and they offered to share, so I stayed. 

As the four of us stood there, the first band came out, and in the middle was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was tall and wore these yellow tinted sunglasses but it wasn’t the way he looked. It was something else., and when he started to preform, I knew what it was. He was one of the lowest people I had ever seen and I understood that depth and how deep it went. 

The show went on, all the bands played, but all I was thinking about was how I would get back stage. This was usually not an issue for me in my 20s, but for some reason, I had to actually work on gaining access so finally I told the security guard I didn’t want to meet the headliner by the lead singer of the opening band. 

Once back stage, I just waited and made small talk till I saw him, but I didn’t just walk up and start chatting, I just stared at him and if he looked back I quickly looked away. I didn’t talk to him, but had lengthy conversations with everyone else in his band and when the asked if I could help them get to their hotel, I was surprised when this man, whose name I still did not know, who I had pretty much been stalking all night, told his band mates he would ride with me. 

What happen afterwards are things I don’t talk about often. He left me with a copy of The Alchemist, and a few weeks later I wrote him a crazy long letter, that my best friend said was too much but I sent it to him on MySpace anyway. For a few months, we talked on and off and then lost touch for 4 or 5 years, and then when my book came out and perhaps because the poem on page is 18 was lifted directly from that long letter I should have never sent, that we found ourselves for a while speaking daily, and I flew to him twice to visit, but distance and timing and loneness to deep for stability…


I met Bjorn on okcupid. He lived 16 hours away and we started as just pen pals and sent books back and forth. He was 24 and I was 32. He went to a great liberal arts school and thought maybe he would be a writer one day, and I was working on my last year of my MFA. Soon after we started corresponding, I started dating, Nathan, a PHD student in the psychology department at my college, but when things fall apart with Nathan, Bjorn and I started talking on the phone and it was not long before Bjorn found the perfect town half way between him and I to meet, and it was in Iowa. 

I drove to 7.5 hours and saw shooting stars but then felt ridiculous making wishes. I got into town before Bjorn and went to the hotel we had booked for a couple days an hour before Obama won the Iowa primary. I watched Obama's victory speech and unpacked. The room was what you would expect from a Day's Inn. Standard queen bed, standard bad hostel room art on the walls, a coffee maker with enough Folger's to make two cups, which stiff towels. Everything is different shades of brown and soft yellows. It was cold when I arrived and by 8pm had started to snow and added upon the three or four inches that were there from the past.

 I took a long hot bath, settled in and tried to not be nervous. When I heard a car door shut, I hurriedly looked at the window, saw him, and could tell he was nervous and shaking. I knew that nothing would be the same. 

I have tried many times to write about those first few days with Bjorn. Those days stretched to infinity and ended too quickly and are still so heavy with memory that when I begin to match words together in my head in attempts to record them in some way, those words don’t hold enough weight. Those memories mean so much to me at the core that in the very back of my closet are a worn pair of round toe red Italian heels that I wore for miles and miles through a cold January day holding his hand and wondering a through the second smallest town in Iowa like we were enough. 

The moral here, if there is one—love at first sight happens, but to keep that glow everything must be perfectly aligned, and those things mostly are not for a majority of us, so we leave, we move on, we change too quickly, so we are left to remember those short sudden times on nights when the world burdens us with sadness, and we fiercely hope we will feel that way again and soon.