I was 12 when I crossed the Rocky Mountains with my family for the first time. I left behind family, friends, and wild minds that had buoyed and encouraged my fledgling voyage into adulthood. The long trek from east of the Mississippi, made in our white 1973 Chevy Suburban, and instigated by my dad’s new job, was an adventure for me. I loved every minute of it. Long before the internet and the easy escape of smartphones, I simply watched from the backseat window as the world slowly changed from deep green to brown, and the sky appeared to grow larger and more dramatic with every mile we drove. We arrived sometime in late July, not long before my 13th birthday. I had never seen a place so brown and pink before; not in real life anyway. My dad was in heaven, my mom not so much. My memory is that she cried when we arrived. As for me? The jury was out, and it took about a year before I realized just how much of an alien I actually was in this new home. But in that first summer, I was open and really quite excited by the high altitude and dry, dry air.
We slowly settled into this strange place. It was so small in comparison to everything I had known before and I remember thinking that it was like living in my favorite show at the time, Happy Days, a 1950s-style show where girls were girls and boys were boys. These roles were very clearly defined in this new place and it was foreign--my first move to a foreign country. I had long been an athlete and tomboy and even though I had recently changed into a woman, in my heart of hearts, I was still the super physical tomboy I’d always been.
We lived in an apartment when we first arrived and the only thing I remember about the place was that it had a pool and I rescued a little Siamese kitten from an abusive alcoholic who made him wear a costume jewelry bracelet around his neck as a collar; he could barely hold his head up while wearing it and it was staining his white neck fur green. I was appalled. The final straw was when, in a drunken rage, this neighbor threw the kitten into the pool and he was sinking on account of the heavy bracelet. I dove in to save him and took him home with me. My mom made me go to the neighbor's apartment and ask permission to keep him, which they were more than happy to oblige, and Tom became our family cat for 20 years. After the apartment, we moved into a mobile home park, which was actually a much better experience than the apartment, but I was acutely aware that something was deeply wrong here, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. I made friends easily so there were always packs of kids running from one trailer to another for the year we lived there. I had a strong sense that I spoke better and thought much more deeply about life in general than many of the people around me and I heard things said that were simply unacceptable in our home; racist and sexist things and so our time there was short-lived. When I reflect on that time I have a very strong memory of being invited to a friend's house for dinner and eating, for the first time, something called Hamburger Helper, and thought it was surprisingly satisfying. We eventually moved into a house on a good-sized park about a block from the high school I would eventually attend. But at this time, I was still in junior high and so begins the story proper.
Prior to our move West, I attended a university middle school, where people of all classes, colors, religions, and lifestyles lived relatively harmoniously. Lots of funding for the arts, sciences, and critical thinking was encouraged. I assumed this was how all middle schools functioned. Needless to say, I learned quickly that this was not the case. When previously involved in theater, with productions presented on a big stage with real lighting and real curtains, my new school's stage was a little raised step-up in the cafeteria covered in a lime green indoor-outdoor carpet. I cried when I got home from school that first day. I had a teacher who made me sit on my hands because “nice girls” don’t talk with their hands and she believed I was doing it for attention. I laughed about it at the time, but deep down I experienced a profound outrage at this. I also quit singing at this time because, as a girl, I was forbidden to sing anything but alto or soprano and I am naturally a tenor. I continued to sing the tenor part until I was found out by the choir teacher's eagle eye and keen ear, and a sharp public admonishment about how a girl singing tenor is ugly and guttural. A painful end to my love of singing to be sure. There were many other offenses to my person by the "authorities," but these stand out as especially heinous for me at the time.
I was really into hats, liked to change my hair, and wore vintage clothing, like the heather brown wool suit I had from 1933 that my great aunt had given me. Mostly though, I was loud. I laughed out loud (still do actually) and I spoke my mind loudly (mostly I still do, but that has been tempered somewhat by life). I was used to being different, but that had never been considered a bad thing before now. I think if it weren’t for the sheer force of my energy and personality, this place could have chewed me up and spat me out. What it did instead was forge my will into steel and I did make friends, some of them are still friends to this day, surprisingly. I was physically mature earlier than other girls my age. I had one girlfriend who was also an early bloomer and it was a bonding experience for us both. Our friendship smoothed my entry into the very segmented social scene that was this place, where I was surrounded by mostly middle and upper middle-class students. These are the families who had been in these parts for generations. It was a small, tight-knit community and they all skied, their families were often part of the country-club set, and everyone knew each other. I was an anomaly, or at least I was always treated as such. But I did eventually find a comfortable place in a circle of friends where I felt seen and genuinely enjoyed. Having transferred from a middle school (6-7-8) to a junior high (7-8-9), I was stuck in this weird liminal state somewhere between elementary and high school for a year longer than most. My parents were much stricter than many of friends’ parents and we didn’t have a lot of extra money, also unlike most of my friends, so I kept busy and out of the house through sports, babysitting, and “drama productions."
It was during the 9th-grade year I fell in love for the first time. He was an unlikely candidate. Where I was physically mature, he wasn’t until later. Although my dad was now a geologist, he had been a construction worker before returning to school when I was in 5th grade and our family culture was working class (my grandparents were railroad workers and carpenters) and my mother always worked. I am what they called a “love child” and my parents married when they were still teens. To be honest I never really knew what this boy’s dad did for a living, but I know it afforded them a privileged life. I only met his mom once or twice and I didn’t get much from her except that she was a hard, judgmental woman, and most assuredly did not approve of me as anything more than a friend of one of his neighbors. Not that those things matter much to kids, all I knew is that I liked this person and I wanted to be around him to laugh, wrestle, and to be my loud and proud self with because he always seemed to enjoy me as much as I did him. I got the impression that he was raised in a serious home, or at least one where joking or teasing was often flavored with enmity, so that easy relaxed kidding that comes so effortlessly to me had to be, unexpectedly, navigated through at times. Anyway, that didn’t happen often, but it does stand out in my thoughts of him. Mostly, we laughed together. I have a very vivid memory of sitting across a table at school and the two of us just laughing; no words, maybe some silly faces, but there was a purity of enjoyment that has stuck with me for all these years. Even today when our quite divergent lives cross paths, within a couple of sentences, we are laughing. That holds meaning in my world. We loved to argue with one another, both in words and in body. We would wrestle like a couple of bear cubs and I always felt incredibly comfortable with him so that when, some years in the future, we crossed paths and our wrestling took on an adult expression, it was still as comfortable and enjoyable as those days at 14 when we’d meet outside for a wrestling match (which I usually won, of course).
Perhaps it was the difference in maturity levels, but one day I woke up with the thought clearly in my mind that “Today is the day, I will ask him to ‘go with me.’” This was the parlance of the day for “becoming a couple,” or “going steady”—as steady as a couple of 14 year-olds can be. But it was very serious to me because it was the first time I felt compelled to say something along these lines. I'm not even sure when it all shifted from bear cub wrestling to something more "serious," but I was going to come out of the closet and state my love. When I did, after school that day, he yelled that “Girls aren’t supposed to ask! And No!” That was one of those moments when my previous world crashed headlong into my current reality and I can feel it like it happened yesterday, not 45 years ago. Isn’t memory strange? Other, much more important things have happened in my life since that day, but that sunny afternoon when I was rejected by the one I loved…well, the sharpness of the emotion has stayed with me. Particularly because the rejection was based on social mores, not the truth of the connection. Years later I learned that his rejection was based, in part, on the fact that his cajones hadn’t dropped, but it had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn’t playing my "role" as a female in this archaic town. I hated him for his cowardice and so throughout high school I didn’t talk to him but to say, “Fuck you,” until after we graduated.
When next we crossed paths, we were both nearing 20 or so. I was living in Los Angeles at this time, soon to be moving to New York. It didn’t take much time before we were wrestling again, this time without clothes and with a fever I hadn’t really ever experienced with someone before, and that’s saying something because that was my area of study from 18-25. I had no shame—never have thank goddess—and had I known about the Kama Sutra in those heady days, I would have pursued it with wild abandon. Or let me rephrase that: I lived the Kama Sutra before I knew there was a name for it. Our paths crossed numerous times during those years, although we lived in different parts of the country. Email didn’t exist, nor did the internet, so there really wasn’t any way to be in touch besides writing or calling and neither of us felt the need to pursue that traditional path. There was something special about our connection, just for the two of us, and when we’re around each other, we are like moths to a flame.
Life moved on and at 28, when our paths crossed again, he informed me that he was going to ask someone to marry him. I was shocked to hear this, but also not bothered by it in the least. That is the honest to god truth. My strongest memory from that night was not a disappointment at his life choice, but was sitting in the passenger seat of his car—a small goldish sedan of some sort I believe—and vibrating from his closeness. I remember asking him, “Do you feel that?” And his response being, “Yes.” It was like a magnetic pull. We haven’t touched each other since in the physical world, although he reached out to me when my kids were young (and his were as well) and we began wrestling again in the 5D and through the written word. We made plans once to meet up but it never materialized. While I was traveling in Europe for about 9 months a few years ago, reconnecting with my Italian family and seeing old friends, my youngest brother informed me that he was getting married and could I come back to the States for his wedding, maybe take some photos? When I returned to the states, I got an email asking where I was and that my friend was in Rome and could we meet up? I tell you, timing is a cruel master sometimes.
I saw him this weekend at the funeral for a mutual friend. We sat across a table from one another, like we used to do in middle school, and argued and laughed like it was 9th-grade all over again. And then we parted ways. We gave each other a hug and his warm palm pressed deep into my back and lingered, for just a moment longer than is usual, and we said goodbye. I wrote him to see if he wanted to hang out and talk but he turned me down and I felt like I was standing on that corner on that sunny afternoon all those years ago. I have never written these things down but felt compelled to after yesterday. Perhaps it’s my way of closing a chapter that’s been the longest damn chapter in my life. Maybe I just don’t know what to do with my desire. Maybe I can use all the feelings to write about a love that has never been spoken aloud but has wrapped me in a vibrating glow since I was 14. It has inspired me and left me weak in the knees, made me angry and feeling ridiculous, helped me keep an internal fire burning. All these things, never spoken, but always a quiet knowing between the two of us that doesn't seem to diminish.
People here jokingly say things like, "Have you finally decided to grow up?" because, you know, being joyful and never having lost the spark of curiosity somehow renders one a perpetual child. My response is to shrug, "Probably not." I do know that I've come full circle in a chapter of my life's story. It's probably why my circuitous path has led me back to this place after originally fleeing from it. I needed to put this whole thing in perspective and make peace with the knowing that unrealized love is confusing. It's never as clear as stories and films make it out to be and can be both joyous and haunting. It's also not a constant, but is more like background music that is louder or softer depending on where you are or who you're surrounded by. Maybe it is constant, but doesn't require our attention all the time. I've gone years without recognizing it; years without so much as a thought of it. But with a mention of his name or the sound of his voice, the music comes roaring back to the forefront and I begin vibrating as if I'm 14 again. They say time is an illusion, that we are always everywhere at the same time; reality is beyond measure, beyond our feeble attempts to control it. I find, in my personal story that this is true, at least as true as anything else I've experienced.
Enjoy my experience of the 1980s.