In 2012, I was re-immigrating to America after a 5 year odyssey in Denmark. I was newly single, non religious, grieving my brother, and accepted to Berklee College of Music. Life had taken some dark turns, but I was in the process of recasting myself. I was planning on flying to Boston to continue my search for an apartment near the college, not to mention the need to get student loans straight.
My best friend at the time was by chance also in Boston on his way to a wedding in Western Mass. He suggested I come hang out with him for a couple days in the idyllic and small town of Shellburn Falls. I agreed. He picked me up from the airport in his pickup and we started driving the trafficky road out of the city and into the curvy hills of the state.
It was a very important moment in my life. I had been gone so long that I was experiencing America as if for the first time, and everything was delightful. The Keurig coffee machine in the place we were staying was a treat. The collection of VHS movies under his friend's TV was delightfully antiquated, and not feeling the constant resistance to understand and be understood in Danish was gone.
We crashed at a buddy's house that night, and hit the little main street area of the town in the morning. It was right about this time that I realized that my friend had not planned anything and we had nowhere to stay for our second night. This was kind of a theme with him, all bluster but no practicality.
As we walked, we ran into a girl he used to know. A petite friend of a friend, and we all agreed to wander together. Absolutely lucky for him/me, this girl and I started to hit it off. She was a local, and there is nothing more charming to a traveler. The moving target loves a fixed point. Opposites.
She very graciously invited us to crash in her family's barn that had been turned into an apartment. It was musty, filled with odds and ends and low ceilings. Part storage, part Cracker Barrell, part dorm room apartment. We all sat on a couch together watching Adventure Time (which I had never even heard of). As we watched, the "get the fuck out of here so we can make out" tension escalated in the room to where even my friend could sense it, and he retired early.
It was fun between us and foreign. This was one of the first girls I had kissed post divorce. It was light hearted and intoxicating for both of us I think. We were both unknown quantities to each other. Emotional mystery beers that turned out to be pretty good.
We spent the next two days together killing time in the town. I skinny dipped for the first and only time in my life. We sat in their local coffee shop, we window shopped, we made out all the time.
One day, we sat on some river rocks eating sandwiches. She asked me shyly, if I lived there, if I could ever see myself with her. I think there is always a moment in a relationship where someone tells the truth and it feels like time stands still. I have a terrible memory some times, but I remember how her face braced itself as she asked and as I answered.
Without thinking and without hesitation, I told her the truth. That after what I had been through, I couldn't take the idea of love with a straight face. I told her everything she already knew. I thought she was pretty and compelling and fun to be around. But love, at that time felt like a prank that had recently been pulled on me. And I was never gonna fall asleep at the party again. Life had drawn dicks on my face with a sharpie once and I didn't want to have to scrub it all off again (I didn't say this part, but I think thats how I felt).
I don't know what she wanted to hear. I wasn't going to move, and neither was she. Maybe everyone wants to know that they have mass appeal. That they could do better or not even better, maybe just different.
The last night I was there, we didn't stay in the barn, we stayed in her room (my friend stayed in the barn thank god). It obviously hadn't changed much since she had graduated college, all posters and DIY art. That night, we watched Forrest Gump on VHS (what the fuck is up with all these VHS's in this town?).
I've seen that movie a million times. I loathe people that do impressions from that movie. Its one of those films thats so ubiquitous its hard to enjoy it. But that night, it went right through me as I laid there next to her. Forrest coming home to the south after all his love and lost. Finding a place for himself. Better and worse for wear. A good hearted ignorance moving through complicated times. It all hit home for me.
That night we made love and it was something unique. It was as if we both were at peace for one night. Like we agreed to pretend that this moment was one of a long sequence with each other. One page in a book of love. She rubbed my back and I fell asleep dreamless.
I don't remember saying goodbye to her. I know she would not have made me happy. It wouldn't have worked out. I looked her up years later, she had kids and a different life. I was happy for her.
There is no moral to the story. Maybe just that the people who witness the moments that make us have no obligation to see how it all plays out. You can't hold on to everyone. It wouldn't serve you if you do.
But I think there is a correct amount of reverence for the people who were beside you, albeit briefly when you changed. Even if it was only a small change.