We stepped inside the church and Austin headed for the youth room. I turned to meet Jon. From a distance Jon is the doppelgänger of Toby Flenderson from The Office, but up close one sees that he has larger eyes and a soul patch.
He led me to his office, which had a Canadian flag on the wall to my left with hockey jerseys covering the rest of the surface, the right wall was a similar case. The other two had photos of Canadian hockey players, signed. His desk chair was signed with silver ink and a sports logo directly above it.
“Oh! Canada.” I chuckled.
He seemed like he went on autopilot for just a moment as he explained why we were meeting, and I remembered that Jon, being a pastor, has probably played the part of counselor quite a few times.
After we sat down Jon spoke,
“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”
Hm. Let’s see. Might as well give any new readers, and my newest subscribers a quick description of the shindig they’ve signed up for. As well as the update I promised in May. I’ve been writing down a little bit of what has been going on every day since mid-June, so I’ll paste any relevant entries inside the following post.
Something you should be warned about if you’re a new reader – I write painfully long blog posts. So if you plan on reading the full story, I would recommend getting comfy, it’s going to take a while.
On a day in early June I was sitting in a booth at a nearby Chili’s with my best friend, Heather Madame.
“June 9th, 2012
We were talking about our fears and giving each other advice. Usually the goal of these dinners is to forget what is worrying us completely and just laugh and have fun, but more often than not (that is, every single time) we take turns being each other’s therapist and staring off into oblivion before going into complex monologues and self-deprecating jokes. Don’t get me wrong, we do laugh, a lot. But mostly laughing is just our way of cherishing what little time we have left being active parts of each other’s lives.
I sipped my coffee and Heather talked me through what I was thinking. Throwing in, ‘You are going to get there’s and ‘Everything is going to work out’s while managing to keep me sane as I came closer and closer to reality. Eventually I verbally faced a difficult truth, that the odds were miniscule that the stars would align and I would make it Shepherd University. I had a feeling that something like this would happen, that’s why I had tucked away a second plan, titled, creatively enough, Plan B.”
Plan B, in a nutshell, involved saving up as much money as possible, renting out a room nearby Shepherdstown (where the university is located) and going to the closest community college in Hagerstown, Maryland.
When my decision to switch to Plan B was not completely settled, I consulted two of my greatest friends – Heather Madame and Madame Emily – to help me decide for certain. Since both of them have always told me how things really are without hesitation, I feared that my ideas would be shot down by logic and common sense. But I admire their unfailing honesty, and if I had to face a difficult truth I would prefer to hear it from them. So when they both responded with enthusiasm matching my own and encouragement greater than I could have ever anticipated, it was so overwhelming that as soon as I was alone I actually cried.
I had been nearing a sense of impending doom and failure, the stress mirroring the tension of piano wire, and to have them lift up the idea instead of explaining the impossibilities, especially when I hold their opinions in such high regard, was the thing that caused me to feel such relief.
When you want something so badly, and you think about it so much that the imagined images become as vivid as memories, and you start seeing pieces of it in your dreams in the night and your ears perk up at the slightest mention of it anywhere, and your chest tightens from anxiety because of the uncertainty, you can’t imagine life any other way than the way in which you’ve been hoping. Any other road just doesn’t exist, if it cannot be done, you’re left standing alone in a mist of nothingness.
But I have something.”
So, I made the arrangements. Originally I was going to find someone who needed a roommate and split rent, and there was one place in particular that I would have loved living in. It was an apartment right down the street from downtown Shepherdstown. The reason I chose Shepherd University was because of Shepherdstown (as for why I chose West Virginia, that’s another post altogether), the town is tiny, and the oldest in the state.
Something rather important that also happened in the past few months, I’ve decided that I’m not going to med school.
Heather and I have gotten into the habit of text-messaging everyday, even if it’s just a short message every few hours. From the moment we wake up, to the minute we go to sleep. It keeps both of us sane and the friendship close since we don’t see each other very often these days.
I’ll save you the rundown of the complete conversation, as it spanned about four hours and hundreds of messages, but the message that was the domino that set this huge decision into motion was this one from Heather Madame right before our ‘G’nite’ texts:
You know you don’t have to be rich or famous or have a Ph. D or a Wikipedia page to be good enough or to prove yourself, right? You said you want to do what you love, so do! But not for attention or approval from the world, just do it for the love of it. After all, the world’s gone mad, my dear Sherlock.
Again the looming monster that is med school pricked at my thoughts. Fifteen years trying to cram my mind full of things I find so dull. Anything relating to the body below the atlas vertebrae I don’t care much for. I just want the brain and the face and the eyes. You can have your heart and pancreas and pectoralis and phalanges. They’re just responders to the signals thrown out from the master commander that is your brain. I started to entertain the thought of forgetting med school when I remembered a note that I had written in one of my little black books.
I don’t want to go to med school, but I’m afraid of my future self being angry at me.
Of all things, I then remembered a speech by Salman Khan (creator of Khan Academy) at Rice University this year. He mentioned a thought exercise that he uses sometimes. Put simply, the exercise goes like this:
Imagine you’re in your later years, seventy maybe eighty. And you’re thinking back on your life and the things that you did. You think about your career, about your children, about everything that you’ve done. And then you think about your regrets. (We all have an idea of what those might be, we didn’t tell someone often enough we loved them, we didn’t spend more time with people who mattered, we didn’t do something or say something or take a risk.) Now imagine that a genie appears, and he says ‘Well, I’ve been listening to you reflect and I’ve been listening to your regrets, and they seem valid to me. So what I’m going to do is give you another chance. I’m going to take you back to 2012, and you get to do it all over again.’
I remembered what my ‘regrets’ were, and I knew what I had to do.
Why am I going to fight for fifteen years for a sliver of happiness at the end of the road? I asked myself. I don’t want to. I thought. So don’t. I impulsively answered myself. That is the advice I would give to anyone. Not once did I ‘regret’ not being perceived as intelligent, or proving myself to people who probably can’t even remember my name. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done, so do I truly want to wait for fifteen years when most of the job will be paperwork anyway? What’s wrong with just being a forensic psychologist instead of psychiatrist? The word ‘psychologist’, if I’m being honest. But I’ve discovered the past few years that 90% of people have no idea what the difference is between a psychologist and a psychiatrist (to put it simply, the latter has to go to med school and has the ability to prescribe drugs…oh, and makes massive amounts of money.) And a bit of it is just being able to say that I went to med school.
It means so much to me that I don’t feel like a fool, I want it to be undeniable that I am intelligent, and sometimes I think I can’t prove that to myself unless I have it in writing. I’m afraid of not being above average, everyday I worry about not being enough. Not patient enough, not logical enough, not experienced enough…anyway, I’ll save you that rant and tell you that I let go of med school. A giant burden was lifted off of me and I suddenly felt extremely giddy to start classes. Good news is, I’ll still be getting a doctorate in the end, but in clinical psychology instead of medicine. I’ll get to spend ten years studying psychology nonstop, ten years!! Just the thought is heaven to me.”
Soon after Shepherd University confirmed that I was no longer enrolled, I received a scholarship in the mail.
I opened the front door to be met with a gust of hot wind. Summer in Texas is in full swing. I walked out to the mailbox, for once most of the mail was for yours truly. One letter was from the Keller library – it was about my $98.00 in late fees…and even from my periphery I recognized the Shepherd University logo on another letter. I winced.
I stepped back inside the house, tearing open the envelope from Shepherd out of curiosity.
Congratulations! You are being offered the Executive’s Scholarship-
The blood rushed from my head. I read over the letter, and then I read it again, and again.
“My goodness.” I sat down at the formal dining room table.
“What?” Austin (my brother) called from the kitchen.
“I, ah…it’s a scholarship.” My mind started spinning. My plans! I had finally managed to get my wits about me and accept my new life going to a community college and paying rent for a room when this darn letter arrived. It was something added to the mix that I hadn’t expected, or wanted. I thought about how I was finally excited to start classes at HCC and that I was proud of myself for not calling it quits even when everything seemed impossible and I was scared out of my mind.
I folded the paper back up, walked into the kitchen and tossed the letter into the trash.
“Was that it?” Austin asked, turning towards me from the stove where he was cooking something in a large pot.
“You’re literally throwing away a scholarship?”
I walked upstairs and into my loft, but my mind was pulling me back to the letter.
No. I thought. That is that.I sincerely wished that I hadn’t gotten it. I had accepted my new reality without Shepherd.
I stared off into space for a moment, then took a deep breath and cleared my head.
What do you want? I asked myself. Pushing aside what anyone else in the world would think.
Well, I thought, the community college is cheap-
No. I interrupted myself, what do you want to do?
I nearly stomped my foot in a pitiful temper tantrum against myself.
I walked downstairs, opened the trash can, and pulled out the letter.”
And so I accepted the scholarship, only to find out that there wouldn’t be enough time to get a student loan to cover the rest of the tuition bill. And so began the process of returning to acceptance of plan B.
Which would have been much easier, if I hadn’t discovered that it was too late to apply for Fall classes.
Accepting this new-new-new reality has been a bit of a challenge. I don’t like knowing that I won’t be in school, and for some reason this fact has made me think less of myself. At least this means that I will have a few months to work on some exciting projects that I’ve been planning over the Summer, and some that I’ve been waiting to start for some time. Including a vlog series based on my ‘People Who Read People’ blog post series and an experiment similar to the Rorschach that I conducted some time ago. I shall never be idle.
I used to be afraid of changing, even the thought of one part of my personality becoming something new and different seemed like a terrible thing. I suppose because mainly what I was afraid of was becoming a serious, unenthusiastic adult with no more daydreams and no more plans.
It’s moments like these when I am happy that I shut down my blog for the Summer. Because my goal was to think through everything about myself – my intentions, my interactions with my family, my relationship with God – sincerely and honestly and try to process the next steps. I’m so scared of ruining everything. I am chaos. I wish for simplicity but I can never let things be simple. My nature, it seems, is to take a perfectly good square and try to make other shapes out of it, and add colors and dimensions. Until it’s just a mess. 100% of the time growing up I was the reason for the classic line being said by my mother, “This is why we can’t have anything nice.” I drew on walls and tore up the mail out of boredom and put soap in my mom’s mini fountain and carved shapes into her dresser and even tossed a lightbulb off of the counter just to see if it would bounce. Things that were plain and simple I couldn’t resist ruining. Sometimes I’ll hate something that I wrote sincerely, and I wonder, if I usually fix my behavior by thinking and speaking honestly, then what do I do when I’m already being honest?”
I saw Heather’s new home for the first time, the home she would be living in after her wedding,
I woke up at 5AM and texted Heather. She arrived by 5:15, and off we went on our journey to Decatur.
On the way we picked up coffee and donuts. Several songs played on the radio that I knew I would forever associate with the drive to her new house. I knew when we pulled into the gas station, the sky still black and the radio still on a soft volume, that I would always remember that feeling. That half-awake state of consciousness as I stared off into the distance and popular tunes played to fill the silence, the completely comfortable silence.”
I went to Heather’s graduation from her surgical technician program in Fort Worth,
Heather graduated from the surgical tech program today. I’m more proud of her than words can express. She fought so hard to get into that program, and she worked her way through while maintaining the highest grade while being the youngest one there and gaining the respect of those around her. She just graduated college at 18. You can be in awe now.”
I marked off something on my ‘Things I Want To Do Before I Leave Texas’ list,
Today Heather and I went to the lake. Grapevine lake, to be precise. We brought along some dollar store inflatable rafts and filled my little picnic basket with food from the gas station. We got out of the water just in time, a storm hit suddenly, making for a rather doomsday-ish scene. A fog danced upon the surface of the water and winds whipped across the dust and created little tornadoes. We left the parking lot as the rain started crashing down in buckets.”
I thought about what I was afraid of,
I’m still afraid of the dark.
I’m afraid of hurting people.
I’m afraid of becoming arrogant.
I’m afraid of being unable to recognize good opportunities when they’re right in front of me.
I’m afraid of the people I care about being disappointed in me.
I’m afraid that the opinions of the people I care about will stop me from pursuing the things that I want to do.
I’m afraid of my emotions ruining everything that is good in my life.
I’m afraid of making someone miserable.
I’m afraid of being so hard on myself that I become selfish to the point of not acknowledging the needs of others.
I’m afraid of letting go.
I’m afraid of talking to my father.
I’m afraid of dying.
I’m afraid of telling you what I’m afraid of.
I’m afraid of not feeling loved.
I’m afraid that my need to feel loved will make me selfish.
I’m afraid of being alone.
I’m afraid of waking up one day and giving up on my career, and my wonderful plans.
I’m afraid of no one having faith in me.
I’m afraid of discovering no one has faith me, and in turn discovering that the only faith I had in myself was based upon their confidence in my abilities.
I’m afraid that I’m too weak. That I’ll come to edge of where I want to be and realize that my fears are greater than my determination.
‘Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.’ –Ze Frank”
We just threw a pool party.
Well, what I mean by that is, Heather couldn’t decide what we should do and after bouncing ideas off of each other Heather suddenly decided that we should buy a kiddie pool, some cheap pool party stuff and have our own personal par-tay in my backyard. So we did. Just the two of us…I brought out my radio and we listened to maddingly popular songs (odds are you already have ‘Call Me Maybe’ stuck in your head), singing along purposely off-key. It was fun and carefree, and lasted not nearly long enough. So far I’m proud of our last Summer, we’re making it count.”
On the 21st of July we had one of the best days of my life,
“While we scrubbed her kitchen the radio played in the livingroom…
I have a feeling I’m not giving you an accurate description here. Allow me to try again.
Heather’s new home is directly next to a freeway, and every few seconds massive trucks rush by at 70+ miles an hour. Upon stepping onto the grass in her front yard, one realizes that the earth is alive and hopping, hundreds of grasshoppers make themselves known with your every step by shooting into the air. A part of the corner of her front door is missing, be it from termites, a dog trying very, very hard to get in or some other cause, one can see her hard wood floors from the outside. The inside is a work in progress – the home was built in the 1950’s, and the previous renters had no mercy on the carpets, doors, walls ect., countless stains mark the ancient carpets and crayon and sharpie marks are on every door and threshold. Giant black widows and wolf spiders are near some doors and clinging to the outside of windows. Roaches scurry along the floor, the walls and the ceiling. And countless dead insects are inside the cabinets and drawers. The previous renters also had a horrific sense of style. The beautifully designed livingroom had navy blue carpets with dark blue walls. The carpet has thankfully been torn out to reveal some lovely wood floors, but the darkness of the walls dims its appeal a bit. One must first peer inside a doorway before hopping inside and checking oneself for killer spiders and flying cockroaches. Outside in the backyard there are snakes – venomous and harmless alike.
The home is beautiful, though. The way it’s designed suits Heather perfectly, and the laundry room, kitchen, dining area and spare room are all very well sized and it will no doubt be great fun to decorate. Madame knew it would be a great effort making the house into a home, and because of the bugs we both squeal like little girls at the sight of the smallest movement in our periphery or the tap of anything that is obviously not human.
So, there we were, scrubbing the cabinets and counters and oven while the radio played, when ‘Radio Love’ came on. It was the song our zumba instructor played the most during classes (the last class we took was about two years ago). Heather remembered a few moves, and so did I. The next thing we knew we were dancing in perfect unison in the middle of her roach-infested kitchen with bleach and dirty rags in our hands, singing along off-key to the song. We thought that was the end of it until ‘On The Floor’ came on, another favorite. Somehow we ended up in the middle of her livingroom jumping and clapping and dancing the good old routine (what we could remember of it, anyway.) By the second chorus we lost track of the order of the moves and ended up bent over laughing, joking about going to a club one day and breaking into a well-organized and perfectly timed zumba routine on the dance floor.
“What did the frontal lobe say to the temporal lobe?”
“‘I am superior.'”
“You’re a nerd.””
“July 14th, 10:32PM
There are many stories that I will tell people one day, stories about my life in the next decade. My life five years from now will eventually be nothing but a memory. My mind won’t hold on the majority of the moments I’m about to experience, because a healthy subconscious is one that knows what to toss out, as well as what to hold onto. To think that many details about this very moment, this moment when I’m pressing certain keys to form words, and this moments right now as you’re reading my very same words, this is a moment where you are completely unaware of what your other senses are experiencing. You aren’t paying attention to feel of your clothing or your posture, you aren’t taking note of the sound of the clock or, if you’re lucky, the sound of the rain hitting your window, you aren’t paying attention to how bright each light in the room is – or how bright the sun is beaming through your window in this moment. At least, not until I just helped you along. Not noticing these things all at once means that you have yourself a healthy mind (also – that you’re not currently on drugs…) and that you find my words interesting enough to lose focus of your surroundings for a moment. It’s just thinking that so many textures and sounds and sights will go unnoticed because I cannot absorb the next ten years completely. I cannot bottle time, I can’t mentally photograph every detail of every moment, I cannot in any way slow the passing of time or make myself cherish it more than I already intend to. And I’m going to meet people in the next ten years. I’m going to forget their names, and I’ll slowly forget their faces. I may reminisce of a moment I had with them, when their faces will twitch for a moment in an expression the world wasn’t meant to see, or when their voice took a turn for the skies or the tile that I had not expected. But their face will fade from my memory, and their name will lose relevance to my life.
If only we had the option to relive our most precious moments. If not to relive them, then to remember them in the most accurate clarity when precious moments are few.
But instead we have a beautiful thing called the human memory, and though the images become blurred and unsure of themselves, we remember how we felt. And what greater way to remember something, than to remember how we were swayed by the moment?”
Something happened that had never happened before,
Tonight Brother Dearest and myself had our first heart-to-heart…we both cried. It was, frankly, weird. Beyond weird, actually, it was downright bizarre. And I cannot remember how it all began.
I was shocked that he actually listened – at least to a few things I said – and nearly begged me not to go. He asked me to do something for him – to talk to a friend of his at the church, one of the youth leaders who is currently stuck in Canada (long story) about, well, me.
I told him that if I’m still in Texas when Jon (his friend) gets back, then I’ll talk to him.
What an odd day.”
Three days before Heather’s wedding I completed yet another thing on my list of things I want to do before I leave Texas, stay in a Hilton hotel.
I stayed at a Hilton hotel in Grapevine with Heather Madame, it was amazing.
I talked Heather into wearing something classy and moving the contents of her purse into something a bit more expensive-looking. We were at the DFW Lakes Conference Center and from every photo and video clip I had seen I knew that our usual outfits wouldn’t cut it…also, it was a golden opportunity – the sort of thing that only arises once or twice a year – to make Heather dress up, do her hair and wear more make-up. Heather is beautiful without a trace of foundation and mascara, but I’ve always loved dressing up and doing make-up, and it’s more fun when Heather goes along for the ride.
As soon as we walked into the lobby we were surrounded by the scent of some sort of perfume in dry, cold air. There was a wood staircase on the right and a help desk on the left. The rest of the lobby was comfortable seating and businessmen standing around confidently talking about something or other.
The executive suite we stayed in was on the seventh floor. The night consisted of cheesecake, random videos on YouTube, creating towers with the many fluffy feather pillows and running to the vending machine for a midnight Sprite. But, that’s ahead of the story. After we checked in and walked around our room, commenting on every single feature, Heather opened her gifts. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I bought Heather several gifts as late bridal shower gifts and a few ‘goodbye’ presents, little things that sort of represented our friendship…like a keychain whoopie cushion, and a metal sign for her kitchen that said “Fresh Coffee”, and a little coffee mug with a country design on it from our favorite antique store. Also, her Nook. When she found out I had sold mine, the chick tried to slip me hers as a birthday present, so I slipped it back to her as a going-away present.
Then we went to Downtown Grapevine. We walked to La Farina’s to discover it was filled to the brim, and live music was being played inside, which would have made conversation impossible. We found out the wait was thirty minutes, and stepped outside to think about it. I was disappointed. I had been daydreaming about coming back to La Farina’s one last time. Heather would’ve waited for a table if I asked her to, but I knew that if we went inside it wouldn’t be the same in the least. I didn’t want La Farina’s, I wanted a piece of that day back. The day we went and had that great waitress and the place pretty much to ourselves. When Heather wasn’t anxious because of the wedding and we had nothing pressing to discuss except how we wanted time to move quicker. And so we walked along main street until we came across a little Italian place. It ended up being perfect. I just kept thinking that those moments would hardly be memories, I thought about how we would blink and we would be walking out of the door and back to the hotel.
“I’m not going to remember those grapes.” Heather said, looking at the grapes and vines painted on the walls (Grapevine takes pride in its wine, there’s even Grapefest once a year.).
“That’s true.” I said, looking where she was staring, “But now that you’ve realized it, you’re going to remember them a little bit better.”
It was like I blinked, and we were walking out of the door, back to the hotel.
It was now nighttime in Grapevine. Warm breezes swept across the streets, the lights of the Palace Theatre were all lit up – it’s very old fashioned in style, and the place shows classic moves every Friday night for $5. As we were approaching a bench with a statue of a man sitting on it, I suddenly felt sad. The night was going by too fast, I wanted everything to freeze for a second.
“Hey,” I said, “Let’s take a seat for a minute.”
She sat down next to the statue and I took a seat at the end.
“It’s so lovely here at night.” I said, looking down the street at the lights and the people. It was rather quiet for this time of night, though on a Thursday not much was happening in Grapevine.
We sat in silence for a while, we were across the street from City Hall. It’s such a beautiful building. Pillars and a bell tower with a statue of a man at the very top holding a lamp to the darkness. We talked about little things here and there, for a while we talked about Heather getting married in a few days, and how odd it will be, when things will be so different.
“I just can’t believe you’re really going to West Virginia…”
I thought about it for a moment, and I looked back down the street. The lights and the people – it’s something nice to look at, its people being social. But what I loved the most were the buildings, the businesses, the feeling walking down the street. Everything was so interesting and slightly Victorian looking in some places. And that gorgeous City Hall with the bell ringing every fifteen minutes. I had been looking all over the country for places like this.
“You know something,” I said, “I love Bass Hall, I love Fort Worth, and right here, I love Grapevine. I was looking everywhere for places that had this feeling. The antique stores and restaurants and a theatre. I looked up what folks thought of Shepherdstown, I mean the people actually living in the place. And a lot of people hate it, they just hate it, and they want out. It’s little and unknown and everything there is to do in the entire town is down this little street. And I’m not even there and I adore it, I want to be there, I dream about being there.” I sighed, “If I had been born in West Virginia, if I were living in Shepherdstown right now, it’s possible that I would have found out about these places in Texas, and I would adore them, and I would daydream about being here. I would have my sights set on it and nothing could keep me from coming here.” I watched a group of people come out of a nearby restaurant, “I’ve recently realized that one man’s prison is another man’s freedom. Sometimes it’s not about the size of the town or even the location, it’s just that it’s somewhere new, and you know nothing about it. Even if it’s difficult, it’s worth it because it’s a fresh start.”
From Heather’s response I could tell she didn’t understand, but wanted to.
While we were talking a few folks used the crosswalk. Turns out when you press a button in Downtown Grapevine to cross the street, there are yellow lights that brightly flash in the road as you cross. It looked like a runway! And so, eventually when we got up and used the crosswalk, I couldn’t resist rasing my hands and skipping. I know, I could’ve picked a motion more glamorous, but there were a lot of cars waiting and that would have taken too long. And I could wave just used the peace sign and still felt like a rockstar for a second. Either way, I knew that the people in those cars were either amused or annoyed.”
And the next big thing to happen: Heather’s wedding.
Hannah-Elizabeth here, coming to you not-so-live from Heather’s fiance’s truck as we head to Kemah, Texas, the location of Madame’s wedding tomorrow night at 7:00PM.
There are a few hours left in the trip, so out of boredom I have decided to whip out my netbook and tell you how things are going so far.
Well, so far:
- We have been pulled over because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
- Stopped in a combination gas station/Wendy’s and have been perceived as tourists from another state.
- Have nearly died because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
- Have passed by the famous Houston statue.
- Have had multiple near-death experiences because Madame’s fiance drives like madman.
Madame’s family and Carlisle’s (as he has been known on my blog) family are arriving in other vehicles…I shall keep you updated.
Heather and Carlisle are on the pier fishing.
The rehearsal went smoothly, everything is ready and set for a wedding tomorrow.
Heather is showering. She needs to wake up in a few hours to start the busy schedule of her wedding day.
How did it arrive so soon?
We sat out on the balcony (our room is on the top floor, overlooking the pier) and stared at the moon across the water. It sank in tonight, folks. Everything sank in. Heather is getting married tomorrow night, and I won’t see her again until the 21st, when she drops me off at the AmTrak station. Our life together is over – she’ll be in her new world, and I’ll be in mine.
What the heck am I doing? I’ve never taken such a flying leap before in my entire life. I’ve never even left town without someone with me. I’ve never been on a train before. What are we doing?
Even during the car ride here it didn’t sink in, not until the wedding rehearsal. Then it hit me full-blast. This is happening tomorrow. This is really, really happening.
The night before Heather’s wedding, we sat on the balcony and watched the moon reflect on Galveston Bay. The water seemed to go on forever, earlier that day we had seen cruise ships in the distance.
“You know,” Heather said, “Nothing could capture the depth of what I’m seeing right now.”
I agreed. I had never seen anything like it. Boats passed in the night and lights far off twinkled. The moon was framed with clouds and light breezes made the humidity bearable. We talked for a while. We could see her future husband on the pier with his friends and brothers fishing at midnight.
“Things are going to go wrong tomorrow.” Heather said, running a hand through her hair.
I nodded, “Yep.” She looked up with light surprise on her face. I continued, “With every wedding there must be at least three things that go wrong on the big day.”
Little did I know that I was precisely right. Three things went wrong.
One – we walked to three different nail places on the boardwalk and couldn’t find one that worked. One of them was having A/C troubles and was closing early, one was unexpectedly busy and the other one told Heather on the phone that they had four manicurists that weren’t busy, and we ended up waiting for half an hour before Madame decided to do her nails last-minute.
Two – four hours before her wedding the hair salon that Heather had made an appointment with a week ago suddenly decided that they wanted nothing to do with styling Heather’s hair for her wedding, Madame’s mother tried calling another place and discovered that they didn’t want to do it, either. I ended up styling her hair, and it looked perfect…ditto for the make-up, not to brag. Actually, I’m bragging. I made my best friend look drop-dead gorgeous on her wedding day.
Three – The cupcake tower (instead of a wedding cake, Madame had a tower of cupcakes) wasn’t tall enough for the cupcakes to fit properly. We found this out 40 minutes before the wedding.
Now, for something quite interesting that happened on her wedding day – a story that Heather says she will tell her children one day:
Finally we found a nail salon four hours before her wedding, it was right next to Ci Ci’s Pizza – where the wedding party was having lunch. We ran in so Heather could get french nails, and while the manicurist (a very friendly girl by the name of Megan) was working on her, a woman who was also get a manicure right next to her struck up a conversation about the wedding. She looked like she was in her late 50’s – grey hair, soft eyes, warm smile. She seemed like a very young woman in an older woman’s body.
We headed over to Ci Ci’s and mid-meal is when Heather’s mother got the call about the hair salon. Madame’s fiance was surprisingly angry, though he does have a bit of a temper on him that shows itself quite frequently, except when he’s with Heather. After we decided that I would do Heather’s hair, and after her mother had returned to her seat and things were back to semi-normal, the woman from the nail salon walked in and headed straight for their table.
“I knew you two were coming here, and you really are one of the special ones.” She said to Heather, then looked to both Madame and her future husband, “So this is my wedding gift, to you.”
She then took off her hat (did I mention she was wearing a tan bucket hat?), got on one knee and sang in an angelic, operatic voice, an a capella version of “True Love” by Elton John. After she finished she stood, spoke something softly and kindly to both of them while resting a hand on their shoulders, and made her exit. I was in awe at the entire situation, I knew awe-inspiring things would happen that day, but I never could have imagined that.
The wedding was on the boardwalk, the water directly behind us. Everything happened so perfectly, so smoothly that you could not blame anyone for believing firmly for a moment that it was all a dream. Despite my best efforts, I cried during the ceremony. Silently, thank goodness, but the tears were still there. I was standing two feet away from my greatest friend in the world as she became a new person. After they were presented as man and wife, one of Heather’s brother-in-laws played the exit song – “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, Relient K’s cover. Garrett (formerly known on my blog as Carlisle) took Heather’s hand and they ran up the steps to the room where the reception would take place.
Photos were taken outside with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I became better acquainted with everyone in both families, and I felt like a part of it, a part of this giant family they now have. Garrett’s mother and I are both very emotional and love hugging and complimenting people, so quite a few times we ended up hugging each other with tears in our eyes and telling each other how beautiful we looked.
One of the songs Heather and Garrett danced to was one of Heather’s favorites.
Something I’ve never mentioned on my blog before – ever since Heather was a kid, she has loved 60’s and 70’s music. In her car and room she has uncountable CDs with nothing but disco songs on them. But her favorite of all of them, the one song that can completely bring out Heather’s true Heather-ness, is “Play That Funky Music”. There’s a video somewhere on YouTube of Heather doing karaoke in a gold suit and blonde afro wig, singing that catchy song.
And so, as soon as the song started playing, everyone made room as Heather in her elegant, flowing wedding gown and Garrett in his classy, perfectly fitted suit danced like they were wearing bell bottoms, peasant blouses and peace sign necklaces. I remembered what I adore so much about Heather. Even in that striking dress and her perfect make-up and carefully styled hair, her true self, her bubbly, energetic, silly, giggly, bust-a-move Heatherness seemed top contradict a dress that communicated stillness and fragility. And as for Garrett – Garrett was being the same person he has always been around Heather. He’s a bit of a tough guy with an ever-serious expression and contained emotions. But when he’s around Heather, his eyes light up and he looks at her the same way he always has, like she’s the most stunning, wonderful creature on the face of the planet. He can’t hold in the widest smile you’ve ever seen, and he can’t stop himself from catching her joy and energy.
To send them off, everyone lined up at the bottom of the steps outside (where the wedding took place) and instead of throwing rice, we blew bubbles. As they reached the end of the human path and bubble forest, I saw her pause and hug her parents goodbye. Panic rose in me when I realized this was it. I wouldn’t see Heather again until the 21st, when she’ll drive me to the AmTrak station and we won’t see each other again indefinitely. I ran up to her, hugged her and tried to freeze time, just for a moment, in the middle of the fabric of that second that consisted of laughter and clapping and cheers and bubbles and waves crashing and starts twinkling and ships crossing in the night. In the middle of the smiles and stares and tears and joy. And I feel that I succeeded. Such a significant moment, so certain, so final that it will forever stand out from uncountable other moments for the rest of my life. That moment marked the end, and the beginning, of everything.”
“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”
I was at a loss for words. So much had changed so recently, I had changed so much recently.
I realized my chair was taller than his, so I pulled the lever until we were eye-level. He asked if I would be alright with us starting the meeting with prayer, I said yes.
And so began one of the strangest, most uncomfortable yet most profound conversations of my life.
I’m not certain what I should say, or if I should say anything. Predictably there were tears on my end, as soon as the first one fell I wiped it away and with a choked-up, frustrated voice said, mostly to myself, “Bother, this is starting already.” I hate how easily I cry sometimes. Seriously folks, I’m an emotional sissy.
The conversation lasted I believe about two and a half hours. He gave me his card and ended the meeting with a prayer, and off I went. I checked my make-up before I left the church and discovered with horror how bad it was. Every time I cry it ruins my eye make-up for the day, there is simply no helping it post-tears.
I suppose for now exactly what was said will remain a mystery.
I’m leaving in two days for West Virginia. Two. Days. And in case ya’ll are curious, I am going to copy and paste part of an e-mail I sent to Madame Emily with my schedule of those oh-so important three days.
“August 21st, 8:00AM
Heather picks me up from my house in Keller and we go to Wal-Mart so I can get last-minute items – small umbrella, toothbrush and a miniature sewing kit.
12:45PM: Heather drops me off at the Fort Worth AmTrak station. I wait for the train
2:20PM: Texas Eagle Train 22 departs.
August 22nd, 1:52PM: Texas Eagle arrives at the Chicago Union Station.
4:00PM: I’m bored out of my mind waiting for the next train and wander out to find a Starbucks I looked up using Google Maps.
4:01PM: I walk out into the streets and realize I’ve stepped into a cold, cruel world alone struggling with one suitcase, one bookbag, one tote bag and a large purse filled to the brim and I imagine being murdered by mole people.
4:02PM: I run back inside the station and find that safe, comfy bench I was on before. Who needs food and coffee anyway?
6:10PM: Capitol Limited Train 1030 departs.
August 23rd, 10:30AM: Capitol Limited arrives at Martinsburg AmTrak station in West Virginia.”
Until I Write Again,