a nearly grand anniversary.

One Year. 366 Days.

One year ago from Sunday, Evan and I set out on a great adventure—marriage. But we decided to make the actual day an adventure, as well, so we set out on bikes from Jackson, Wyoming to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park [28 miles], waited out the rain, vowed to love each other forever [do note: “every second of every day” is different than “forever”], and then danced into the night with so many loved ones at a ranch in Wilson.

It’s been a year. A big year. So we wanted to celebrate in a big way. With a big day. We decided we wanted to climb the Grand Teton on our one year anniversary—August 14th. I’ve never summited the Grand. Evan has many times. I was hungry for a summit and excited for a day in the mountains with my love.

The first night in Wyoming, we arrived later in the night to our camp spot. We drove the van around, listening to an anniversary mix I made for Ev and talked about our favorite moments of the last year. I couldn’t have been happier. I told Evan…

– I love this. I love you. I could drive around forever.

I’m glad we didn’t, because as soon as we stopped and got camp ready, Evan surprised me with the. best. anniversary present. A year ago, we had a “cheese cake” for our wedding.

sidneymorgan-4321

Mary at the Jackson Whole Grocer helped us put together a dream of a wedding cake for me.

Evan contacted Mary again and had her make us a mini wedding cake! Just like you’re supposed to do for your first anniversary! I died. So exciting. The best. He even brought our cake topper, made by the ah-mazing Lindsey Yankey. It might be my favorite thing from wedding times… besides, you know… my trophy husband.

cheese_cake!

We drank wine and ate cheese and talked into the night. A perfect beginning of anniversary weekend.

Saturday, we couldn’t get a high-country permit for camping near the climb, so we spent the day getting ready, running around String Lake, swimming, cooking, and getting to bed very early, in preparation for our big day.

zoomingstring_lake_smeethenscooking

We woke up at midnight. After coffee and oatmeal and drawing a Tarot card each [he drew the King of Swords! I drew the Queen of Swords! a couple! on our anniversary!], we set off on the trail in the dark, alive with excitement and love. We had 7,000 feet of vertical gain in front of us and we were ready.

Just kidding.

Here’s a hot tip that you probably don’t need: Don’t try to climb a 13,700 foot mountain off the couch.

The first seven miles were great—for me. I was kicking ass and taking names, but Evan wasn’t feeling so hot. He started slowing down, because his stomach was hurting so bad. We got above the upper saddle [farther than I had ever gotten!] and Evan had to emergency veer off the trail to tend to his belly.

Even when he went off the trail and stayed there for a while, I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes for a bit. I wouldn’t admit to myself just how tired I was, just how un-ready my body was, because I wanted to summit so bad. I wanted us to be on top of the Grand together on our first wedding anniversary. I brought my wedding dress in my pack, to maybe even put it on on top of the Grand.

Evan came back from his trip off trail and told me he wasn’t feeling well. He then dry-heaved for a bit while I looked away and started to tear up. He said he didn’t think he could do it. I told him we could just go home and go back to Bozeman; I was so upset.

We should’ve turned around. But we didn’t. Evan gave me some indication that he might might be able to do it and I told him…

– Make a decision. You either need to buck up so we can do this or you can call it and we’ll bail.

I think I even said something like, “All this for nothing!” I was upset. I was tired. We had been hiking for almost seven hours and I thought that not summiting at that point would be the worst. I am not proud of this moment of our anniversary. I am not proud of this moment at all.

Evan entertained the thought of us getting to Wall Street—the first pitch of the technical climb—and seeing how he felt. I was so excited. We started that way, but were going at a snail’s pace at this point—stopping a lot.

We should’ve bailed. You know this. We knew this—deep, deep down. But we didn’t. Getting on rope in the Tetons with his favorite person made Evan whole again—for moments at a time. He was so happy. We started each pitch by saying…

– Happy Anniversary. I love you. You’re on belay.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too. Climbing.

– Climb on.

It was the best. Until it wasn’t. Until we started moving even slower. Until we had a route-finding problem a handful of times. Until after five pitches, I couldn’t imagine climbing again. Until the wind crushed my soul and then the sun burned my face. Until I started really bonking. Until we realized, “Okay, we’re really not going to make anniversary dinner reservations.” Until we realized, “Shit. We are not in a good place.” Until we saw the sun getting to a place it wasn’t supposed to.

We had two pitches left. We got to the top of the second to last, the sun was setting, we were hardly speaking to each other. I asked Evan, where do we go now?

– I went the wrong way up there. The way we were supposed to go for the summit. We’re going to bail. I’m so sorry.

I lost it. I started crying. All this for nothing! ALL THIS for NOTHING. I’m tearing up thinking of it now. Evan apologized over and over as I berated him for everything under the sun. [again, not proud.]

I just kept thinking, “What the hell does this mean about us as a couple?! How did we get here?? Is this day symbolic of our marriage? We’re fucked.”

[do note: there are no photos from our time actually in the mountains… for obvious reasons. I think our lack of selfies is very telling of the fact that we were miserable.]

We headed to the rappel and I could not stop crying. Just your casual silent sobbing. There was another climbing party on the rappel who we shared a rope with. I went first as Evan was still coming along. The woman who shared her rappel with us was there climbing with her brother. She was so friendly and struck up conversation with me, probably because she could tell I was upset.

– I wouldn’t be upset you didn’t summit. Look how beautiful it is!

– [through not-s0-sneaky tears] Yeah, but we just went the wrong way. And it’s been a long day.

Evan came down the rappel and the chatty, nice woman asked him his name.

– Evan.

– Evan, I’m Kim. Where you from?

– I’m from Jackson, but we live in Bozeman now.

Kim took off her sunglasses and lunged towards Evan…

– Hey! Evan! Oh my god!

Of course. Of course they went to college together. Of course they’re friends.

– What’s new?? You live in Bozeman now with your beautiful… girlfriend?

– Wife. Rachel’s my wife. And she’s pretty upset with me, because I’m a dumbass.

– Rachel! Don’t be upset at Evan! He’s the nicest guy in the world!

Here’s a hot tip everyone always forgets: When someone is in the throes of anger, telling them to not be upset is risking murder-suicide.

[Disclaimer: Kim is lovely and I am so psyched I met her, but she caught me at a rough time.]

– I know he’s the nicest guy. I do know that.

We continued the descent down back to the saddle while Evan caught up with his old friend and exchanged news about ever person who went to the University of Oregon from 2002 to 2008, while I trudged along in the back, wondering if you can die from the affects of suppressing anger weeping.

We parted ways with Kim and her brother and had a moment together. It was starting to get really dark. I told Evan…

– We didn’t summit and we don’t get to have fancy anniversary dinner and I’m just so tired and sad!

– I know. I know; I’m so sorry. And I even had a surprise for you—I got us a cabin at Colter Bay.

I collapsed in tears. Sat down, head in hands. I just openly bawled. I’m sure the whole valley heard me yell-crying…

– I COULD BE IN A CABIN RIGHT NOW?!? WHY ARE WE HERE?? WHY DID WE THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?? HOW DID WE GET HERE?? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?? I COULD BE DRINKING WINE IN A CABIN!!

I composed myself and we started down the trail, in the dark.

We had about seven miles to get out. In the dark. We were wordless for a while, before I stopped Evan to apologize. I apologized for being a loose cannon of emotion and way too blamely and for not listening to him when he was trying to tell me we should bail ten hours ago. I told him…

– I’m deciding to change my attitude right now. We’re in this together. I love you. I’m sorry. If we can laugh again at some point on our hike out of here, I’ll call this a win.

He looked at me with eyes that made it clear he was unsure if we’d ever be able to laugh or even smile, ever again. But we headed on.

We had to get to the van. We had to get through the dark and to the van.

So we banded together. We took turns losing it. Completely losing it. We lost ourselves in the boulder field. Then we found the trail again. Then we lost ourselves again, in the second boulder field. We lost ourselves for a while. We walked in circles. We lost it. We cried. One at a time. We took turns seeing things. We took turns freaking out. We took turns, breaking down, telling the other one, in a shaking voice…

– I’m losing it, babe.

Then one of us taking the other by the shoulders, comforting them, and saying…

– It’s okay. You can do this. We got this.

We realized we had been awake for 26 hours. We thought about calling Search and Rescue. We talked about how stupid we were. We talked about how dumb this was. We walked in circles around boulders. We tried new strategies. We finally saw headlamps of new adventurers, heading up the mountain, coming towards us on the trail. Saved! We walked towards them and found the trail again.

Only four more miles to go. Oh my god.

This was the hardest time. These last four miles. Our legs were aching. We were delirious. Evan was feeling so sick. Evan threw up. I thought my knees would be forever damaged. We had to take so many breaks. We thought we saw scary things in the woods. We fell asleep walking. We stumbled. We fell.

But we laughed. We laughed at ourselves. We laughed at memories. We laughed at our situation. We laughed at these parts of each other that we only get to see in the deepest of breakdowns.

How, when times get really tough, I get this weird camp counselor energy that makes me ask get-to-know-you questions to keep spirits up. What did you want to be when you were little? What’s your favorite thing to ski in Jackson? Did you ever think about not following me to Missoula? [okay that last one was a little deeper of a question, but made for great conversation! for a while! spoiler: he definitely did consider not moving to Missoula. dummy.]

How Evan will deliriously recite pop songs and when he gets tired enough, he’ll be quiet for a long time and then excitedly say…

– Wanna hear my new song?

– Of course.

– Ohhhh, child… Three more miles… Oh, hot damn… Gotta make it to the car.

It made as much rhythmic sense Sunday night as it does now… none at all. But we laughed. Hard.

Here’s a hot tip for music enthusiasts: Think hard before you put those ironic pop songs on mixes before big days in the mountains, because those the catchiest songs will be stuck in your head for HOURS.

That song put on there because we got doooooown to it on our wedding night:

rachdroppinit_2 copy

That one actually made for some amazing call-and-responses throughout the day…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Feelin’ good as hell!

Or more accurately…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Like I’m gonna die!

At one point, while walking, Evan said…

– Ray? You okay?

I literally opened my eyes, standing up still…

– Were we just having a conversation? Or was I dreaming we were.

– You were dreaming we were.

Shit. Wow. I was walking and sleeping. We laughed… in a sad way… but still… laughing.

We—finally—made it back to the van. At 5am. 27 hours car to car.

We did it! We comically high-fived. We kissed.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too.

Evan passed out immediately, but I was determined to drive 20 miles down the road to our cabin. I drove in delirium. Don’t worry, I was safe. I was determined.

I saw the biggest elk I’ve ever seen, right by the road. [or at least I think I did… delirium.] He had a rack that reached well above the van.

– Oh my god!

I yelled, as Evan snoozed in the back.

I pulled up to the check-in and the man at the counter was semi-impressed with my literal sob story.

– So, you think you’ll make it another year?

– I mean, I’m gonna try. A very late check-out would help.

We got to the cabin. I woke Evan up and he was way too tired to function. I set his flip flops down on the ground in front of him and the van. He looked at them, looked at me—so confused, looked at them again—more confused. I bent down and turned them to face him and moved them closer. It was like he couldn’t figure out what these things were and what he was supposed to do with them. Laughter again.

We got to the bed. We slept for as long as they would let us. It was glorious. We took showers. We felt like brand-new people, who knew a lot more about ourselves and each other and could hardly walk down stairs.

We called Monday “Redemption Day.” I put on a white dress. We went to a fancy-ass lunch and had cocktails. We exchanged gifts. We took our leisurely time driving the van home, stopping at sites we wanted to see, picking up hitchhikers, listening to the anniversary mix over and over, making memories. We walked around Yellowstone and held hands.

IMG_3711

We got ice cream cones. We came home and drank fancy bourbon that was gifted to us on our wedding day. We ordered Chinese food and listened to records. Redemption Day. Living up to its name. Its made-up name. A fresh adapter, that Redemption Day is.

redemption_day

This morning, the reality set in like a heavy haze. I drove to work and then the dentist and faced scary deadlines for each. I suddenly missed the mountains—delirium and all. As this rush of missing came over me, Evan texted…

“As ridiculous of an adventure that was… I enjoyed every minute of it because I was with you. I’m exhausted. I can’t believe you’re at work right now.”

I agree. It’s true. I enjoyed every minute. Because we were together.

This life is crazy and stressful and hard and beautiful and hilarious. And it’s all of those things, but brighter when I’m with Evan. It’s an adventure that I know will be hard and I know might not yield all the results I want, but that doesn’t matter as much as it matters that I’m with him through it all. It’s a crazy thing to realize—this power of this love. But I can’t stop smiling about this realization.

And for Year Two celebration, we’ll be ready [training, climbing, trail running, a push-up or two] for the Grand. And—just in case—we’ll have another kickass Redemption Day planned.

[one.]


 

Alternative Title Considerations for this Post:

“Five Steps for Your Crying-est Anniversary Yet”

“Blame it on the Tetons… or Your Poor Husband”

“Youths Report: The Up-and-Coming Hip Part of the Grand is Right Below the Summit”

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Hallucinating”

“My Husband Made Eye-Contact with a Grown Man Whilst Having Explosive Diarrhea on our Anniversary”

“Symbolism – It’s Overrated!”

I want you to be here.

As I said before, there are moments [strong, strong moments] that I want to remember from the time surrounding my accident. The night we came home from the hospital, I don’t know if either of us thought we would ever sleep. Evan and I were both so exhausted, but as my face began to swell and blacken more and more and the adrenaline wore off and reality set in, there were questions and what-ifs and words-you-need-to-say that could have kept us up all night.

Instead we said almost nothing to each other and both tried to get as much sleep as we could, with almost no avail. I fall asleep on Evan’s chest every night, but since my face was insanely broken and tender, my body was at a loss as to how to fall asleep. So, I took another pain pill and slept for a few hours. Evan spent most of the night awake wanting to comfort me, hold me, without hurting me.

We both tossed and turned the morning after, trying to get more rest, and not knowing what to say to each other. Evan left the bed for some time and then came back when he saw that I was sitting up a little. He had been watching me with everything he had since right before the accident; catering to my care. Evan got into the bed and I saw him pause as he tried to figure out how to hold me, how to be delicate. I told him, “come here” and I brought his head to my chest, so that I was holding him and my face was clear from contact.

And maybe it was the lovely oddness of our reversed embrace that spurred it, or the inevitability of holding it together for too long, but Evan broke. And for the second time ever, I saw him cry. I didn’t actually see it; I felt it. He sobbed into my chest and said only, “I was so scared. I thought you could be gone.” We held each other. We comforted each other. We affirmed each other that we are here. Not gone. We are here.

[side note: evan finally got some well-deserved sleep right after this and I think he slept for five hours straight. a friend texted his phone asking if he could come drop something off; I replied for the sleeping boy saying, “sure!”… when our friend knocked, I opened the door with my busted manatee face and told our confused friend, “shhhh… evan’s sleeping… he’s beat.”]

ev sleeping during said five hours.

ev sleeping during said five hours.

The next few days were physically miserable for me. My arms were too sore to lift above my head, one of my eyes was swollen shut, and my top lip had tripled in size from biting through it. Beyond that were the expected pains of having a broken face and recovering from a serious head injury. I couldn’t even bathe myself.

Evan didn’t flinch when I expressed wanting to clean the blood out of my hair and wash my body. He prepared a bath and helped me out of my clothes and into the tub. It was hard not to feel demoralized. If you pride yourself on any ounce of independence, getting a sponge-bath is a hard blow. But Evan rejected all awkwardness and instead exuded an attitude of, “why would this be weird? you’re doing great; you’re beautiful; I’ll give you sponge-baths forever if you need.”

We got through those days, those weeks, these months, and clung to each other a little bit closer each night.

I never want to forget that love. This love.

–––

A week ago Evan was in a pretty bad avalanche while skiing in the backcountry.

I know.

He’s fine. He is incredibly lucky to have walked away.

I started writing a play-by-play of what happened… and then me finding out… and then my unfolding of feelings… but it was too soon. Too much.

Evan wrote a summary of the 500ft tumble for the avalanche center.

It was insane to have this person, this love, who I needed to help feed and bathe me so recently, barely survive this day.

There have been many numb moments since. When he told me the news over the phone [crying for the third time], I hung up and turned off the music and shut the computer and poured myself a tall bourbon. But then I just sat there in silence for about an hour, not touching the drink. Numb.

And then there are times when we let ourselves get caught up in the what-if game again. Tears. Apologies. Words. Embraces. Love. Whiskey.

–––

Today, a week later, Evan turns 29. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EV!

His birthday is such a perfect time for me to reinforce my happiness that he is here… alive… part of this world. Life, once again, became a question we hadn’t asked and Evan answered with a vehement, “YES. I want to be in this world.”

And then I feverishly agreed, “YES. Be here. Stay here. I want you in this world.”

Life and love is still something I’m trying to figure out, but I know I want a lot of both.

A lot of both with this guy…

Evan

Evan, Anna Davis said it best when she said you are “just the best.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY BOY!

WE’RE ALIVE!

I SOLD ALL OF OUR SKIS!

I LOVE YOU!

And here are some songs for a kitchen dance party later:

Maybe we should include a dance-off competition in this year’s Eye Patch Olympics:

Okay, and also this video is for you because it’s the best thing in the world and I bet you haven’t seen it yet.

[happy birthday! so much love. let’s be alive.]

I want to be here.

It was a week ago today that I was in the ski accident. The ski accident where I lost control. Couldn’t gain control.

The ski accident where I hit a tree. With my face. Whiplash. Lost consciousness. Blood everywhere.

The ski accident when I broke my nose and cheekbone and bit through my lip.

The ski accident that gave me my first IV. My first CT scan. Two CT scans. The first when they thought there was bleeding in my brain. Where they might have to drill.

The ski accident where I was taken down on toboggan, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Bozeman, driven in an ambulance to the airport in Bozeman, flown to Missoula, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Missoula.

Right after the accident, there is a lot I can’t remember. There is also a lot I do not want to be reminded of about that day. That accident. The ski accident.

But there are some moments I don’t want to ever forget.

G E T T I N G   T W E N T Y   S H O T S   I N   M Y   F A C E

The pain of the actual accident was actually surmounted after the fact. After realizing what had happened to me, that it was serious, that I wasn’t going to make happy hour, that I needed to get about 40 stitches in my face; I waited for the plastic surgeon to come sew me up. A man walked in and looked at me. Just stared at me. Turned around.

– Hi, I’m Rachel. Who are you?

– I fix things like this. [stares at me again.] I think I can fix this.

And then he turns around again.

I give Evan the WTF? hands and he just shakes his head in confusion. The doctor prepares the needles and adjusts my bed so that I’m laying down flat.

– I’m going to numb up the area and then I’m going to stitch you up.

– Okay. I’m very scared of needles, but I think I’ll be okay.

I am scared of needles. When they put morphine in my IV, I asked, “Will this make me less scared of needles?” It didn’t. I don’t think it did anything, really. My adrenaline was too high.

This doctor did not care about my fear. He was so cold, he felt heartless.

He started putting the needles in my cheek. I tried to be brave; I really did, but it hurt so bad. And there were just so many needles in my face. So aggressively.

It wasn’t long before I started crying and it wasn’t long after that, when he started putting shots in my nose, that I started bawling.

He stood there silently, relentless, and stuck me over and over. It felt more aggressive with each needle.

By the time he got to my lip, I was begging. I was pleading with him to stop. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and it felt like an attack.

Blood and tears streamed all over my face and I begged, screamed, as I sobbed, for him to stop. And he wouldn’t. Not for a second.

– Please, No, No, No, Please stop. STOP! PLEASE! NO MORE! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, please, no, no, no, no…

As I cry now, remembering it, I try to figure out why, why exactly, I want to remember this. Why do I want to remember?

Do I want to be able to compare every little pain I complain about to it? Remember what real pain feels like?

To realize that it was all worth it? In the end, the doctor did an incredible job stitching me up. His work was beautiful and those shots were ultimately a part of that.

To find faith in compassion? As I begged, he pressed on silently. As I bawled, he didn’t flinch. A hand on the shoulder or a “there, there, I promise it will be okay” would have beamed a bright light into my life. Empathy. Compassion. Something I want to remember.

T H E   S T A R S   I N   B O Z E M A N   T H E   S T A R S   I N   M I S S O U L A

The bathtub keeps bringing me back. I can’t take showers right now, to keep my face dry. So I take baths. To wash my hair, I have to lay my body down, my head horizontal, to dip it in the water. I’m rarely ever that flat, with nowhere to look but straight up. But recently, I was like that for a very long time. And these baths bring me back to the stars.

In Bozeman, they told me that there might be some bleeding in my brain and they were going to fly me to Missoula to get checked out. I cringed as they brought the backboard in. They put a neck-brace on me, they rolled me over onto my side, slid the board under me, rolled me back, and strapped down every part of my body, including [especially] my head.

The ambulance was ready in a parking garage, so it wasn’t that cold, it was nothing to see [upwards, at least].

When we arrived at the Bozeman airport, they opened the ambulance door and the cold took me over. After wheeling me out, I could instantly see the fog of my thick breath. But beyond that were the beautiful stars. So gorgeous in their perfect, comforting placement. It was like they were the only ones really [really] looking at me, understanding. We stared at each other with a pumping vein of tenderness and then I was lifted into the small plane.

The plane ride was almost miserable. I couldn’t move any part of me and every part of me hurt. Claustrophobia set in quick. A man who was flying with me, making sure I got everywhere safe, noticed my tears and rubbed my arm. When I told him my head hurt from the board, he loosened my head-strap and massaged the back of my head. I would have never guessed that the reassuring touch of a stranger would be so comforting, but it saved me.

We landed in Missoula. As they opened the plane door, the cold consumed me again. When they lowered me down and started rolling me to the ambulance, there they were. In the same exact place, the same exact pattern, like they had waited to make sure I arrived safely, the stars were there. And I realized that this was the same sky, these were the same stars, that shine on everything, everyone that I love. Everything can look up at these stars and find the encouragement of love, hope, and beauty.

This huge world filled with so much that I love, so much that I don’t even know yet, can all be united under this gorgeous blanket of stars. As they put me in the ambulance, my third ride of the day, I realized I want to be a part of that world.

Something I’ve never had to worry about wanting before, something I’ve never had to question, something I’ve had the privilege of being a given, suddenly became a question. And I answered with a feverishly adamant, “YES.” I want to be in this world.

I want to be here.

triannual torrential.

Things have been up and down and beautiful and sleepy and tough and smiley.

———

Wondering about blahgging:

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain.

Should I be keeping my mouth shut more?

Ah, well.

———

Favorite song right now…

———

I worked in the garden the other day for the first time… in… well… ever.


‘Twas a blast.  Especially with some Dig beer by New Belgium.  My new trend is to drink beers themed after my favorite activities.  Case in point.

———

The other day at work, I had to cry… like, really cry… and when that happens, I like to quote Tina Fey…

“…I’m not supposed to admit that there is a triannual torrential sobbing in my office, because it’s bad for the feminist cause. It makes it harder for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. My crying three times a year doesn’t distract me from my job any more than my male coworkers get distracted watching March Madness…”

It’s true.

After finishing up the tears, I had a meeting with a guy friend at work and he asked what was up.  I told him that I allow myself three cries a year at work…

– But you’ve cried twice today…

– THEY DON’T COUNT IF THEY’RE ON THE SAME DAY!

You just have to have a good cry every once in a while.

———

The other day, I showed up to spin class early.  A woman was on the bike next to me and we were warming up.  Those bikes are really close… uncomfortably close.

I noticed that I kinda smelled bad… repeat work-out clothes… whoops.

The woman next to me finally broke the silence and said…

– Thank god that smell is finally starting to go away.

– Oh, sorry, that was probably me.

– What?

– That smell… it’s me… sorry.

– What?  No, they painted in here last week.

– Ohhhhhhhkay… yes, the paint.  THAT smell… THANK GOD it’s gone!

———

My best friend and I are going to go to Greece this summer when I’m visiting her in Italy.  We booked a room at this fancy pants place: http://www.aquisresorts.com/aquisresorts/aquis-sandy-beach.aspx

I told her I’m so excited about beaches and pools and sunshine, and I’ll try to play it cool, but in reality, this is what I’ll look like: http://whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com/post/18975032747/hanging-out-at-a-pool-party

———

And this is for all my literary lovelies…

———

Oh, also, I think “The Skin I Live In” is the best movie I’ve seen by far thus far in 2012.

———

Oh, also, this is this here blahg’s 500th post!  What!  What!  wull haaaaaay…

they have like seven cats.

Most. Awkward. Lunch. Break. Ever.

In Missoula, I’ve welcomed meeting new friends with open arms.  This means going on what I like to call, “blind-friend-dates.”  Letting friends I know, set me up with their friends who live in Missoula.  Nothing can go wrong, right?

So, I get an email from my friend, Jeff Brown, telling me I have to meet his friend, Dana.

Oh-kay!

Jeff Brown is better friends with Evan, but he’s dating my way good friend, Katrina [whom i’ve been on many an adventure with], so I trust his judgement.  And this is Jeff Brown…

courtesy of the facebook machine.

I email Dana and we exchange a few notes back and forth.  I ask them if they wanna get a beer sometime after work, they say we should meet for coffee sometime in the middle of the day.  Perfect!

And the first thing that’s a bit awkward is that I don’t actually know if Dana is a male or a female.  No offense to Dana, but we’d only been communicating via email.  I had just met a male Dana and knew a bunch of female Danas.  And this Dana had said somethings like, “You’ll know me by my long, overdue-for-a-haircut hair, and my nubby, oatmeal-colored cap that I wear everywhere in the winter.”  And I thought, Alright, maybe they are a guy… but I’m pretty sure they’re a girl.

So, I tell my friends at work to wish me luck on my blind-friend-date… with either a guy or a lady.

I walk into the coffee shop we were meeting at today and see an older lady sitting at a table, wearing an oatmeal-colored cap.  I kinda look around, but, no, she’s the only one.  I walk up to her and ask…

– Are you Dana?

– Yes, you must be Rachel!

Alright, lady Dana.

– Hi!  I’m gonna go grab a cup of coffee… I’ll be right back.

And I’m thinking, Alright, Jeff could have a good friend that’s 55.  There’s nothing wrong with that… a bit weird… but nothing wrong.

I get my cup of coffee and go back to the table, asking Dana…

– So, how do you know Jeff?

– Oh, well I lived in Austin for about 12 years.

– Oh, I didn’t know Jeff lived in Austin.

– Yeah…

– Did he go to school there?

– No, he went to school in Indiana.

– Oh, cool.

Dana is super sweet.  A gentle, lovely soul.  I see how Jeff could be friends with her… sure… She asks me…

– How do you know Jeff?

– Well, he’s good friends with my boyfriend, but he’s also dating my really good friend, Katrina.

– What?

– Yeah, him and Katrina just moved to Boulder… they’re super in love… it’s awesome.

– Wait… What??

She’s obviously confused… and really worried about something.  This is not going well and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable at this point… so, I sound a bit shaky when I say,

– Yeeeeah, has Jeff not told you about Katrina?

– No!  I thought Jeff was still married to Maryam.

– WHAT?!

– Yeah, are they not married anymore??

– Jeff was married?!

At this point, I’m freaking out.  How the hell did I not know that my friend’s live-in boyfriend has an ex-wife??  I bet she doesn’t even know!

– Wait, Jeff Brown?

– Yeah, Jeff Brown… lives in Boulder… was in Australia for a year… lived in Jackson…

– No, this Jeff Brown lives in Austin and is married to Maryam!

– Oh, my god.

It hits me.  My PARENTS have a friend named Jeff Brown.  They MUST have given my email address to him… and he set this up… my parents’ friend.  This is all a big misunderstanding.  I immediately start apologizing.

– I am so sorry.  Okay.  I’m figuring it out.  We’re talking about different Jeff Browns.  Your Jeff Brown lives in Austin… he’s friends with my parents.  Nice guy.  Yes.  Okay.  My friend, Jeff Brown, lives in Boulder… with my good friend, Katrina.

– Oh, my gosh, you had me so scared!  I was so confused!

– Yeah, me too.  Okay, we’ve got it figured out.  Jeff and Maryam.

– Yes, Jeff and Maryam.

And then I remember a few phone conversations I’ve had with my mother lately about her friends in Austin and I say…

– Oh, and I’m so sorry to hear the sad news about Maryam.

– What sad news?

– Well…….. that… she has… cancer…  [i say this the same way anyone would tell someone they didn’t know that their dear friend has cancer… very timidly and unsure of what the hell is even happening.]

– WHAT?!

She looks like she’s going to cry… like, bawl… in the middle of this coffee shop.  I am currently turning this woman [who is old enough to be my mother]’s life upside-down.

– Well, okay.  Ummm… I’m pretty sure?  No, okay, I could be wrong.

– I thought she would’ve told me!

– Okay, probably not then.  Okay, these are my parents friend… I don’t really know any of them.  Probably not.

– I hope not… Oh, my gosh.

She’s kinda in her own tiny world of gentle panic and I’m looking around for candid cameras or maybe a sign that this is a nightmare…

– Yeah, I would double check those facts.  Okay, probably not.  No, not at all.  Sooo… How long you been in Missoula?

We talk for a while longer about Missoula and Austin and life and jobs and whatnot.  When talking about Austin, Dana mentions Jeff and Maryam again… Except this time, “Maryam” is said in a softer tone and paired with drifting eyes to a hopeless stare into nothingness.

I panic and want nothing more than to snap at Dana a couple times and say, “Hay!  Probably doesn’t have cancer… Really.  Seriously.  Hay!  Probably does not have cancer.  Seriously”  But instead, I try to change the subject and ask…

– So, how is Jeff and Maryam’s kid?

– [very matter-of-factly.] They don’t have any children.  They have like seven cats.

OH MY GOD, I SERIOUSLY HAVE NO IDEA WHO THE HELL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT.

– Phewwww… Yeah, oh, yeah, I knew that!

I can’t help but start to think about what this woman must think of me… what she’s going to say to our probably-mutual friend, Jeff and his probably-cancer-free wife, Maryam.  I bet she thinks I’m drunk.  God, I wish I were drunk at this point.  And then I finally decide to stop faking it and find out who the hell Jeff is… I KNOW I know my parents’ friend, Jeff Brown…

– Okay, what does Jeff do?

– He’s a sculptor.

– YES!  Oh, my goodness.  With the beautiful studio in his home.  And Maryam’s an artist as well!

I got it.  I figured it out.  Small victories.  I had to clench to those small victories.  But, then I was done with my cup of coffee and there was really no getting over the awkwardness that I had doused allllll over this meeting.  It was time to get going.  We said our goodbyes and I said…

– Well, it was nice to meet you.  Glad I could confuse the fuck out of you…

Just kidding.  I left that last part off.  But I wanted to say that.  I also wanted to assure her that Jeff Brown did not have a girlfriend living in Boulder and that Maryam didn’t have cancer… but I felt like hearing that again from the drunk 20-something that her friend made her have a cup of coffee with probably wouldn’t make her feel better.

I walked out of the coffee shop, already dialing my mom’s number.

– Hi Rachel.

– Mom.  I’m sorry to ask this, but what’s the name of your dear friend who has cancer?

– Laurel.

– Oh, my god… Yes, Laurel.  Okay, I just told one of Maryam’s friends that Maryam has cancer.

– What??

– Yep.  Yep.

– What??

– I don’t know!  I thought I was meeting a different friend… or something!  I just scarred a 55-year-old woman forever.  I’m sure of it.

My mom started laughing and I did NOT think it was funny at the time.

– I’m sorry, Rachel, but I have to go… I’m at work.

I went back into work and plopped my coat down.  Said,

– That was the most awkward lunch break of my life.

– That’s a pretty bold statement.

…my boss said.

– Oh, it’s accurate.

So, I tell him the story and everyone in the department starts listening.  At one point my boss stands up, laughing at everything… especially at how frazzled I am, and puts his head in his hands because he can’t believe that the story keeps going.  Everyone is laughing so hard and I’m seriously looking at them like, “What the hell is wrong with you?!  This is horrible!” 

They all keep asking me questions like…

– How did you not know she was older?

– I don’t know!  I guess I should’ve known when she didn’t want to go for a beer!  Of course she didn’t want to come to Missoula to have a beer after work!

– Come to Missoula?

– Oh, yeah!  She lives in Florence!  She drove from 20 miles outta town to have some seemingly-drunk girl give her a minor heart-attack!

Everyone is dying laughing.  And I start smiling.  I start breaking.  It starts being funny.  Then Mike, my boss, says…

– So, you pretty much told this poor woman that her good friend’s husband is cheating on her and that that good friend probably has cancer.

– Yeah.  Pretty much.

– Ha.  You need a beer.

– Yeah, I do.

– Hell, I feel like I need a beer after just hearing that story.

Side Note:  Dana is lovely!  We made tentative plans to have dinner with our partners and if she doesn’t think I’m completely bat-shit crazy, maybe we’ll become dear friends and laugh at that time we first met and I almost killed her with breaking news.

to who? everyone.

I saw a girl on her bike get hit by a car today.  I’ve never seen that.

It was right downtown.  The whole block froze.

– ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!

…is all that was heard in the surrounding dead silence, yelled by many of us.  Still no one moved.  Everyone was still.

She stood up.  Shaken.  Embarrassed, she tried to jump on her bike and ride right off.  Her bike was broken… she couldn’t go anywhere.

I was still.  We were still, bound together by this frozeness.

The car that hit her drove off and still I stood frozen.  We stayed frozen.  Numb.  The car parked and a man jumped out and ran back to the scene.

The girl walked her bicycle to the sidewalk and waved to who?  everyone.  and yelled, “I think I’m fine, thanks!”

Emotionless, I moved on with my evening.  Everything was fine; it was time to meet a friend in need for a drink.

After the drink, it was off to the market with me for asiago cheese, a carton of wine and a hair brush.  [you know, the staples to get by.]

When done, I hopped on my bike and waited to make sure the parking lot traffic was clear.

A man, a man with obvious disabilities, a man with some kind of keyboard around his neck, a man with a limp and a slurred voice, ran into traffic.

This was terrifying.  And, for some reason, the first thing I thought was, “What is that keyboard around his neck?  I feel like I should know what that thing is… what it does…”

He yelled…

– STOP!  WATCH OUT!

A car stopped dramatically.  Everyone stopped.  Frozen again.  We watched.

The man ran, limping, across the lot with true fear in his eyes and a deep fear exuding that is usually only cured by a tight, genuine hug.

It was moving.  So moving.

I biked off and my chest welled.  I couldn’t control it.  A tear fell from my face and I thought, “What is going on?  Why are you crying?”

The couple blocks to my apartment were a novel… ending with counting every step up my stairs as the final pages.  But walking around my apartment were secret, hidden lines.

I walked around this apartment with determination, breathing out a couple, “woooooo”s and “hoooooo”s, calming myself down and fighting more tear… fighting hard… not knowing the strange, powerful feelings that had filled me.

And I still don’t know.

And I guess that’s it.

[that is it.]

how come you never go there.

If anyone was wondering, change is hard.

And that’s just how it goes.

But, I have to keep reminding myself, I wouldn’t trade the hard for the comfortable… the evolution for the stagnation.

It’s always been the darkness that breaks my bones so they can reset correctly and grow… really grow.

So, what do you do when you loose it?  Cry at a market.  Crumble in the kitchen.  Have a drink at noon.

You sleep.  You wake.  You cut some fruit, start anew and listen.

Listen to yourself.

Listen to your friends.

Listen to this: