a triptych on Love

Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except Love.

-Susan Sontag-

photo by Lisa Hubbard

photo by Lisa Hubbard

They met under a tree in in late September, converging in the midst of their diverting trails to make a decision. She had left things scattered about his house the month before, in the bathroom with its cold, hard ceramic green tiles. She had left things scattered about his house- a tent, an old pair of glasses, contact solution, a cell phone charger, a toothbrush. She left them scattered because she hoped she would return. She hoped to return to brush her teeth alongside him in her pajamas before bed. But when they arrived to make their decision, she knew deep down that she never would. They met under a tree in late September. She looked at him with sad eyes, mourning. He, uncomfortably apologetic, had already abandoned their campsite, leaving the coals smouldering.

A few months later, he moved, picking up her glasses- hoping she could still see- her cell phone charger, her toothbrush, her contact solution, her tent. He put them together in a plastic bag that would later be named, “Someone else’s stuff.” The first thing he did when he arrived at his new apartment, just blocks from hers, was shove that bag in the back of the closet, where he hoped to forget. How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

A year later, there they were…friends? She walked through the door of his apartment, hopeful, knowing that things were different. No longer growing together, no longer intertwined. Their roots that had clenched so tightly together were now looser, freer, with room to breathe. Every stone on the road was precious to her, but she was unsure about how often to polish them. They drank tea, they conversed. They were rewriting what was normal. As the night drew on, as her eyes began to droop with weariness, he opened his closet, reaching deep inside for that small plastic bag, fossils of her past life. Earrings she had thought she’d lost, the glasses with their loose hinges, the contact solution still liquid, stuffed inside a small plastic bag.

#     #     #     #     #

She stood amidst the bustle and hustle and sea of stranger faces, standing alone. She felt her palms tingling, her heart pounding, the extensive surface area underneath her thin layer of skin electric with anticipation. It was as if she had, all of a sudden, discovered a sixth sense, another way of taking in the world. It was as if she had invented the sense of waiting and was fully immersed within it. These moments, when this sense of anticipation is most alert, feel heavy, like the world is holding its breath before throwing itself off a cliff.

photo by Seeman on morgueFile

photo by Seeman on morgueFile

There’s no way anyone knows, she thought, looking around at the other eager people holding flowers and signs and smiles, waiting for their loved ones in the arrival area. They can’t hear my heart pounding in my ears, can they? You can never tell by looking. This thought reminded her that we never really do know what other people are feeling, how many other senses people are inventing in this moment- maybe they are feeling so palpably the sense of a winter wind propelling them forward, the sense of anger erupting in the middle of an argument, maybe the sense of falling one feels when at the edge of sleep.

It was as if every bearded man in a rain jacket was him. Every man looked like him from a distance- tallish, smiling, jeans, brown hair- Nope, No, Not him, that’s someone else. And then- there he was. Guitar case in hand, walking straight and tall, almost gliding. Orange jacket, red backpack, face serious and detached, the face of a traveler. Alone, an island in a sea of strangers. He was unaware that she was there, looking at him from the other side of security. She pressed her hands together in anticipation, eager, waiting to collide.

#     #     #     #     #

The rustle of the night is always most apparent when sleeping in the shelter of thin nylon fabric. My tent has a mesh top, which lets in the light of the stars, peeking out from the telescope of trees, which reach endlessly upwards.

Stock photo

Stock photo

Sarah couldn’t sleep that night, as is usual for her. Her dad wakes up at 5 am every morning with a pot of tea and a candle. She often joins him now when she’s home in Hood River, two cups of strong black tea instead of one. But that morning she had no stove to heat the hot water, only dead coals reminiscent of our festive dinner from the night before. An empty bottle of wine laid on its side by the remains of the fire, ashes blowing in the early morning wind. The wheels of her mind were turning over and over, incessant, bothersome, as she turned in her sleeping bag. Sparks of her tireless brain hopped like Mexcian jumping beans.

So she got out of her tent- ziiiiiip- and into the chill summer night, strange mix of frigid alpine air and hot, dry days. We were camping by the endless depths of the bluest blue, Crater Lake. Last night, while toasting with our last glass of wine, we had said we would get up to see the sunrise, much earlier at this time of year than in the winter. But we’d be under three feet of snow if that was the case.

So she roused us in her sweats, red hair stuffed in a wool cap, quiet voice in the dark- “Are you going to come? I’m going to drive up to the rim.” Swimming up through waves of sleep, I realized where I was and the importance of this moment, a Northwest Special.

So we bundled up in July’s best- gloves, sweaters, hats, happy in the warmth of summer’s chill, and trundled up the hill just in time. I leaned against your warm chest; Sarah and her companion also sat together as one.  The electric bulb of the sun, an elemental, life-giving being, forced its way into our awareness, struggling out from the flat line of the horizon. A slight blush at first, missing form and purpose, and finally a piercing glow, reminiscent of leaves at harvest time, blinding us in its stark reality. Another day, born.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

You may also like:

Matters of the Heart
There is so much
where the cliffs meet the sea, a Love Story
closing of the day

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