You handed me the book The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. You said my writing reminded you of hers, and you thought it only right that I should own your favorite book by her. Then you handed me the acorn. You said there was a lack of flowers to pick from in neighboring yards, and that the pine cone would last longer because it was just a seed.
There was nothing I could do but let my heart melt.
We went up to my bedroom because it was the only private space we had. You were living with your aunt and I was living with two house mates. We lay on my bed and played some of our favorite music for each other. You had just discovered Billy Bragg, so that's who we mostly listened to while lying and talking for hours.
You eventually reached over and brushed a few strands of hair away from eyes and said, "I'm scared."
The comment took me off guard.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I like you. I mean, I feel myself really falling and I'm scared I'm going to hurt you, and me, in the process."
"Then don't hurt me," I said.
You held your gaze into my eyes, smiled, and then we kissed for the first time. The knot of butterflies in my stomach completely unfurled, and I could feel myself falling too.
The next weekend you invited me to the coast to visit your mom, sister, and nephew on Olympic Peninsula. We stayed in a cabin that your mom's friend owned, and when I left the room your nephew looked at you, gave the thumbs up, and said, "Dude, good job." We both had a good laugh about it later.
The next day you took me to the ocean because I had never seen it. I'll never forget driving around the corner into LaPush. The waves were breaking against First Beach with jagged rocks coming up from the water. I gasped and reached over to your arm. You just smiled and chuckled. We spent the next hour or so walking on the beach and hunting for stones.
On the way back to Seattle you surprised me with a visit to Sol Duc Falls and we walked on the bridges overlooking the waterfall while holding hands. All the fresh mountain air made me tired, so you let me rest my head on your shoulder while you drove us home. I fell asleep before we even got out of Olympic National Park, and I when I opened my eyes about 20 minutes later I was surprised I didn't wake up from all the hills and curves in the road. You smiled and said you'd driven slower than normal so you wouldn't wake me.
The next three weeks flew by with late night chats, drinks at our favorite bar downtown called the Library, and just feeling at home with each other while reading books, watching C-Span, or listening to music in my bedroom.
About a week before you were supposed to go back to Michigan you found out you weren't getting a job offer from the firm. The bad news combined with having to finish a term paper started to wear you down. You eventually got sick during our last week together, so I started picking you up after your 10-hour days at the office. When we got back to my place I'd make hot toddies for you and rub your back while you focused on finishing your term paper.
During your last night in Seattle, I helped you edit the final draft of your paper before heading to dinner with you and your aunt. I was completely impressed with your writing and depth of knowledge, and felt so incredibly lucky to have found you.
At dinner, your aunt took our picture and despite the heaviness I felt in my heart and the stress you were under, we both looked incredibly happy sitting side-by-side holding each others' hands. After dinner, I helped you pack and then cuddled face-to-face with you on the futon in your aunt's living room. You were stroking my hair and I yours. You asked me if I was going to cry in the morning, and I told you I couldn't make any promises. You said it was going to be even harder to leave if I did. We held each other for a little while, and I went home so you could get some rest for the long day of driving ahead.
I showed up early with breakfast and helped pack the last of your things into your little red VW Golf. Your aunt said goodbye and went inside. You kissed me and I instantly started crying. We eventually ended our embrace and walked to our cars. We waved goodbye with you driving one direction and me the other. I wanted to believe it wasn't the last time I would ever see you, but it was.
By mid October your phone calls and emails had grown fewer. You kept telling me it was just because you were busy between finishing your last year of law school and searching for a job. I was hoping you would come home for Thanksgiving, but you again said you were too busy with course work. I ended up celebrating the holiday in Neah Bay with your family, and when I called that night to wish you a happy holiday you couldn't talk because you were at a party.
The next morning I finally saw the ocean at Shi Shi Beach and from the cliffs of Cape Flattery, the two places where you said you wanted to take me. While watching the waves crash against the rocks, I could feel you drifting away and knew I needed to have the talk with you I was dreading.
I called you a few days after Thanksgiving and asked if it was over. You said you still felt the same for me, and that you were just busy with coursework. I asked if you were coming home for Christmas, and you said you were planning on it. I told you I would ask for some time off and drive you from Seattle to LaPush, and hoped we could spend a few days together. You said that sounded nice, but weren't completely sure of your holiday plans because you also had to visit your dad in Los Angeles. Then your voice turned forlorn telling me you wished you didn't feel pulled in so many different emotional directions by your family.
I waited for word about your Christmas plans, but none came. Only a picture of you and a beard you had grown over the last four months.
Then Christmas Day came and went, and still no word. I tried calling, but you didn't pick up the phone. Then two days after Christmas I woke up to an email saying you had met someone, that it was only two weeks new, but it was serious and you wouldn't be coming home over your holiday break. You said you drove around L.A. all night trying to call but couldn't because you couldn't bare to hear me cry. Then you quoted a line from Billy Bragg's Must I Paint You a Picture and said, "It's bad timing and me."
I wish I could say that all I felt was a broken heart, but it wasn't. Having you write off everything we'd shared with nothing more than an email made me feel completely insignificant.
I felt as if my very insides had been ripped out of me, but I had to force myself to go to work because my publisher wanted a feel-good story for the next day's paper and my editor had scheduled me to interview a local woman who walked her duck on a leash. Even as the eccentric lady babbled on about her duck, all I could do was feel like the crazy one for having fallen head-over-heels for a guy who found me nothing more than insignificant.
I saw a woman in the park yesterday,
walking a duck on a leash.
She turned to me and said,
"Ducks never leave.
"A morsel here, and a morsel there,
and ducks are as loyal as can be."
With a quack and a pluck,
the woman and duck were on their way.
I sat to myself thinking,
such a strange thing to see.
A woman with her duck.
Then I thought of you,
and a little bit of me.
A morsel here, and a morsel there,
as loyal as can be.
Then I thought of you,
and a little bit of her.
I cried to myself thinking,
such a strange thing indeed.
Your aunt called the next day to say how horrible she felt, and asked me not to hold against her what you had done. She said our friendship meant the world to her, and that you were a complete fool to let someone like me go. It's strange how your aunt ended up being a person of great comfort to me during the next several months, but all of that ended when rumors started spreading like wild fire about me.
One of your distant relatives in Neah Bay, who was as well as married, tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and broken heart. When I told him exactly what I thought of his deplorable actions he took revenge by spreading rumors. Pretty soon I was painted as a home wrecker, and to this day I can't step into Neah Bay without a look of hate casted my way. It didn't take long for your entire family to turn against me, and the last time I ever heard from you was to confront me about one of these rumors that held not even an ounce of truth.
Sunday, July 23, 2006 - The box
It was a pine cone. A perfectly round pine cone plucked from the ground and kept in a box for almost a year. It never had a chance to grow while resting alongside several rocks, an address, and fleeting memories of a summer when I first saw the ocean. Tonight I opened that box. I said goodbye to the pine cone and the rocks with a whisper, a kiss, and a toss into the night sky. I took the box and address and threw them in the trash, but the memories - those I'll keep. They may be bittersweet, but they're mine.
It has taken me three years to fully come round from the feelings of insignificance and pain you and your family caused me. I went from being completely loved and embraced to nothing at all. I think back to the day when we first kissed and you said you were scared of hurting me. Now I know why.
From you I learned two things. A person is only as insignificant as they allow them self to be, and that letting go is easy once you dispel a mirage and realize something was never worthy of you in the first place.
Status of brilliant trace #8: Married
brilliant trace #9