Saturday, November 17, 2012

being there

I only get four hours of sleep that night in Missoula. Nici and I stay awake till 2:30am, polishing off the second bottle of wine, giddy with pride and disbelief as the country blooms into a bluish purple on the computer screen and victory after victory after victory for love & equality roll in.

Throughout the whole thing, from the first electoral votes to the president's late night speech, Nici and I are talking, talking, talking: children, joy, mistakes, near-misses and a boy in the Bering sea. We talk about writing, about putting our lives out in public, how tricky and rewarding and brazen and funny it is.

And the stories- the back and forth tennis match of stories that only stop because our eyes cannot stay open. From the moment we met, the instant recognition, her daughters jumping up into my arms and resting their heads against my neck, it was obvious that we would never exhaust our supply of stories.
Four hours after I finally fall asleep, the little girls are creeping into my room, crawling under the covers, wearing one full set of pajamas between them. Outside the window, the smoky haze of dawn is creeping over the cold mountain in the back yard. The girls each unfold one of my arms and cuddle up, lying quiet for three beats before they're animated and restless. Ruby lifts the hair from my eyes and pushes her face against mine. "Hello," she says in her three-year-old stage whisper. "Get up now, please."

The girls tug me into the kitchen where Nici is at the stove making pancakes and strong coffee from Black Coffee roasters, unfazed by the meager hours of sleep behind her. She pours me a cup, and then another and another. We sit in the chilly sun room as the two little girls run trains between our feet. The sun rises over the hill and my blood is half caffeine.
I've been reading Nici's blog, digthischick, for a few years now. Maybe it's our relative proximity in this Northwest corner of the country, but I knew from the start that one day we'd be sitting at the kitchen table, catching up like old friends. It's just funny that I visited her now.

After splitting with my wild boy, I felt a deep and unsettling homesickness. How bizzare to feel homesick when you're already home.

Heartbreak is like standing in a familiar room, happily ensconced in your life, in your routine, and then the light switch is thrown and suddenly you're in the dark, blinking and disoriented. It's the same place- nothing has changed, nothing has moved- but now it feels foreign, rearranged, not yours.

You can't believe it just yet, but you're not always going to be frozen there in the dark. Your eyes will adjust over time; you'll find other sources of light. But until that happens, you feel so sad. You don't know what to do next, or even where to place you foot to take a step, because you can't even see. Your hands press up against the walls and you refuse to let go, too scared to walk blindly into that place you used to call home.

But I knew enough to get out. And I went to Nici. We'd never met, but her humor and warmth glowed through her words and images. I let go of the walls, found my way to the door, and went to Montana.

Somewhere on that Greyhound between Kalispel and Missoula, the sadness evaporated. It just never showed up, even though I was waiting for it. It must have stepped off the bus in Kicking Horse for a cigarette and never got back on. When Nici threw her arms around me on a sidewalk outside of town she also, without me even noticing, reached over and flipped a light back on.
She asked me questions, got me thinking about where I want to go, pushed me back on track. She jumped to the bookshelf, leafed through magazines until she found the essay that will help and she read it aloud. We went for a walk through town and up the mountain I recognized through dozens of photos and posts.

We already knew so many bits and pieces of each other, and meeting in person was like stringing them all together, making them whole.

The sadness still comes and goes, now that I'm back home. But it's not as bad as it was, not nearly so. My city is in the dismal throes of November, but it's not an island. It's connected by railroads and highways to smaller towns that stay bright, even in the winter, and filled with snow and open space. Enormously generous people live there, and they are there when I need them.  


Jessie said...

What a gutsy and healing journey you took. Sounds like dig did you a world of good when you really needed it. What a good friend.

Adriana Iris La Dulce Vida said...

I love this post. Maybe because it makes me feel like the world is big but yet so small. Maybe because I have faith in people and my blog has proved that we can connect more times than not. Maybe because I too fantasize of traveling to other places and meeting those whose lives I have only read of. I too love Nici and was so happy when the 2 of you met. =)

Sarah said...

Amazing....friendship is just an amazing thing!

Catherine said...

Beautiful. Your heart may still be broken, but goddamn it's producing some good stuff.

bonjour, i'm rebecca! said...

,,,sometimes the lights will flicker on and off, but friends, family and complete strangers will help you find your way,,,

Catherine said...

I discovered you through Nici's blog when she mentioned your visit and I have spent the last couple of nights flipping through the pages of you last year... I feel mesmerized by your words, touched by your story.

Emily said...

you're cool. let's be friends.

Emily said...

also heart break SUCKS.

Melina said...

Emily, sounds great! Let's do this! ;)

Emily said...

I'm so serious. Do you ever come down to Portland? Want to come hang out with me in my sleepy little vineyard town and I'll take you to my favorite woodfire pizza restaurant? And/or, probably I'll be in Seattle at some time between Dec 15-Jan 15 so let's play. :-)

Nici said...

Oh man I loved your visit so much. And I love that now, when I sit in the late night reading your words, I hear your voice!

That sidewalk hug was something, right? So awesome.

Next time, I promise you won't sit in cat pee.


Angela said...

Your analogy for heartbreak is so poignant...sitting here in a coffee shop reading your blog for the first time, the truth of it echoes so resoundingly that I look around to see if the other patrons heard it too.

It was such a gift to meet you in Missoula on election of many we received on November 6th!

Angela said...
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