Read Time: Approximately a 17 Minute Read
We exist in water, share a lifetime between splashes. We were floating the night we met. I had been sitting in a parked car, finishing a call before returning the two blocks to the hospital where my mother was. I hadn’t noticed you sitting with your friends across the street, on the lawn. But you noticed me, let 1.5 hours pass (while I talked on the phone the whole time), and walked across the street to my car. I remember hearing you (with your British accent) before seeing you: “Are you ok? You’ve been sitting there for an hour and a half – just wanted to make sure no one was holding a gun to your head or something?”
I removed myself from my reverie on the phone, looked at you standing in my car window with your yummy blond hair and confident blue eyes and thought to myself: “shit, I’m getting robbed.” In a split second I then realized you were actually checking on me. When I did, I assured you I was safe; you invited me to come join you on the lawn chairs, in the deliciously warm Spring weather.
We found ourselves leaning back in those lawn chairs on the luscious grass, looking up into trees and tiny flickering lights, hovering somewhere above the ground and under the sky. I leaned so far back I almost doubled over into a parallel time/space continuum. We talked about Scotland, you get up to get water, and in front of your friends, kiss me, softly, peck’ingly. A kiss is a kiss is a kiss. But, wait, I just met you one hour ago. Two hours after, the kisses melted into more.
The next morning, 4 hours after we parted, text messages drenched our phones:
You (from work): “I’m floating.”
Me (from my mother’s 8th floor hospital room): “that’s because I’m intoxicating.”
You (from your car): “Tonight? We’ll go find a pool.”
Me (still in my mother’s hospital room): “take me under, baby.”
Second date, less than 24 hours after we met, equaled swimming, water, heat, open air, the feeling of being consumed. Time became irrelevant for us in the water; we left the weight of our worries at the shore. All I had to wear was my stretched out orange speedo swimsuit, which I only wear when swimming laps. It’s so ugly, I think. My boobs looked like awkwardly shaped lumpy yams in that suit.
Didn’t matter. The suit clung to me for seconds before it was an orange glob on the cement. We have sex in the pool, 4pm. We’re so in love, or whatever that means. Or maybe we were just that lost.
I felt like curving my hips in a planetary circle, like a Bharat-natyam dancer, when you wrapped a light pink towel around my hips, drew me in closer with the towel, and pecked me on the lips, all in a flash of a second. My drying hair had curled into lifelines of their own, bouncy and curly and puppy-spastic like. I call my mom to make sure she took her meds and don’t try to hide the call from you. You come from behind me, breathe into my hair (yes, something very sexy about that) and just hover in my energy field. Your scraggly, personality-filled, abundant blond hair wet at its roots.
We have water, we have each other – it’s so much easier tomelt into one another when you’re submerged in water. I shiver, the March weather was slightly chilly for me, and you promise you’d get me a pool with warmer water soon. (I forget that promise, until months later, when you remind me of it.)
I tried to tell you how burdened I was the night we met. My mom was so, so, so sick, so many hospitals, so many psychiatrists, it was just her and me struggling again. I did tell you, but perhaps not with the clarity you required. With you, all that ugliness just flowed off effortlessly. I know I was a tall glass of water for you to take in, with my stories of Afghanistan, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Texas, DC, Serbia, Kosovo, Chicago, Boston and my unpleasantly complicated family.
As we submerge deeper in love, we plan for hot tubs, warm baths, skinny-dipping. Don’t forget, I spent an entire summer skinny-dipping on the coast and rivers of Texas with a boyfriend and knew every spot, but we found new ones.
I don’t know how to write about how, as I was leaving to go to DC to check on my life there, we separated. Don’t you remember how I told you that Texas is not my home? It’s all too painful to remember and still doesn’t make sense. All I remember is my mother, hospitals, cars, planes, my feeling of desperation, a happiness with you and massive joltings. Then, a blank space where we deleted ourselves from the grid.
Months later, in DC, miles away, after our separation, June just poured. The rain was relentless, my mother was sicker, the pressures more urgent. I walked home in the pouring rain for days that June, in my white suit, in my sandals, in my eggplant-purple suit. Just longed for the hot summer rain to wash it all away. I redirected all my energy on my garden plot, but every drop reminded me of you. I met a boy in those rains who grew up on a street without fire hydrants. When I told him of the fun I used to have as a child, playing in the water on the hot cement as they would flush out the fire hydrants on my street, he asked me if I would take him there. We stood on the threshold of the bus, huge drops falling between us, talking of water. And, as I was headed back to Texas in two days to take care of my mother, all I wanted was to wrap around you in water.
Days later, I found myself stunned, in our unexpected movie’esque reunion. I flew to Texas on July 4th. I held my small mother in my arms as she slept, watched the fireworks from the quiet, dark 6th floor hospital windows, and wondered what you were doing. Now I know we had both been staring out into the same fireworks, thinking of each other. You tell me you were consumed by those thoughts, which spurred you to call the day after July 4th, apologize, profess your love. We were 30 minutes into the conversation when I told you I was in Texas again, taking care of my mother. We were, not-so-coincidentally, two blocks apart. Yes, somehow again, without our doing, we had found one another once again.
You asked me to come, so we could see one another. I walked up to the backyard, you grabbed me by my pinkie and took me to the edge of yet another pool.
“Dip your toe into the water,” you whisper to me.
“You’re fucking crazy.” I respond. Why would I want to do that, I think?
But, because I didn’t know what else to do, I oblige. I slide off my sandal and, dipping my toe into the water, find it to be unbearably hot. What I didn’t know was that you had accidentally turned the heater on in the pool.
“It’s hot.” I state the obvious.
You grab both of my index fingers, lean into my right ear; I’m slowly melting being so close to you again.
“I promised I’d get you hot water one day,” your sculpted lips whisper into my ear. Actually, you were somewhere between whispering and being drowsy. It took me a few seconds to remember what you were talking about – the promise you made on our second date, now months and months ago, that we’d one day find hot water. And, when it all came back to me, I felt like the star of my own movie.
We came alive again in that hot hot water, 11pm, with Texas hot summer night rains pouring down on us. Tasting raindrops that squeezed their way between our lips. We agree to make it work this time, make plans, set boundaries. I tell you how I have to move back to Houston to take care of my mother full-time; you tell me to move in with you. You keep repeating how we have lost time to make up for. I’m floating up to my chest in the pool in my white swimsuit with pink flowers – I happened to have a suit on me that night, oddly enough. Banana trees, dirt, humidity, sweat, swimming, we make love in all of it. You pull me under the water, over and over and over again. And, I billow. My hair billows. Your limbs wrap tighter around me. We’re simply in slow motion. Everything around me, my realities, our bodies, swirled – the last six months; my thick and curly hair; my arms; the water; your arms; your blond hair; the so-recent gain of my mother’s mental health; my blond-haired, blue-eyed Wesley. You and I again entered what was becoming our signature dance of finding one another, losing one another, finding one another; a dance underwater in slow motion.
I can now bear to see your name in writing, spoken, referred to. It doesn’t burn like it used to. See, because you represent, to me, my greatest strength and greatest weakness. You are my most tragic and magical lover. After my mother unexpectedly passed 10 days after our reunion in the steaming hot pool, I couldn’t move back to Texas. I just couldn’t. Why can’t we move to your hometown, to London?, I balked at you many times. Why the fuck Texas? Why not Chicago? But you took my inability to move back to Texas as an indicator that I didn’t love you enough.
I didn’t know how to explain to you in those days that I consider my greatest accomplishment is that I was able to extract myself from the pain, trauma, complications, stickiness, mess of my history in Houston and leave it all behind. The fact that I re-created myself, my life, my identity independent of Texas is something I cherish more than I can express.
And, in an ironic twist of fate, many years later, I fall in love with an English man in Texas who doesn’t understand why I can’t move back to Houston to be with him. So the very reason that makes me who I am is the same reason you and I couldn’t be. My friends jokingly call our relationship The Texas Roadside Massacre, and I still laugh at that because I find it very funny but very poignant.
We’ve found one another many times since those early days in the water, tried muddling through for two years, and we’ve managed to exist in art, in photography, in jokes, in biking. I still continue to experience you, to experience the blessing you were, the beauty that we were, the horror of our final separation. Yes, Wesley, there you were, as Rilke writes, drop by drop.