I had been out of Portland about seven weeks, but we had maintained a constant dialog. Less than ten days after I departed we made plans for her to come visit. Knowing full well that I wasn’t moving back to OR and she wasn’t moving to NC (for a number of reasons), it seemed a little like prolonging the inevitable. But we both wanted to see each other so we rolled the dice. Let those emotions persist, let them be tussled with, and try to embrace the evolution of the relationship. Moving from coast to coast aside, I had a very busy summer before she arrived. An extended stop in CO to gather my things and see friends, a stop in IL to see my folks, getting acquainted with my new digs, working on papers, meetings with those whom I would be working with, getting classes set up, another trip to CO for music (by plane this time), a friend in town, and then her arrival. Things went fast. I didn’t have enough time to do everything I needed to do, but I had the remainder of the summer for that. I certainly wouldn’t get much, if anything, done while she was here, so I was faced with a 5-day window of unproductivity. This was somewhat unsettling being that I had a roughly three week window in the great transition where I couldn’t give any extended amount of time or attention to my work, but I wanted to see her and it was worth the sacrifice.
We hadn’t made any plans to do anything specific other than to hang out. We got along very well, just goofing around and goofing on each other was enough to keep us occupied and fulfilled. We went on some hikes, went out to eat, made food at home, went out for drinks, the usual things people do in their lives. It was unexciting from an outsider’s perspective, I imagine, it was domesticated when analyzed, I imagine, but it was good. Now, while we had spent an awful lot of time together while I lived in Oregon, we never spent all of five days in a row together. That was a little bit of an adjustment. She had come to see me, after all, so I felt as if I had to entertain her. She was on vacation. But I also am not the type to fill the days with endless activities, nor do I like to sit around. I also wanted to do some work so as not to grind to a complete halt. But we navigated all that, with some bumps and bruises, but largely it went off very well. It was a life lesson: put down your guard, try to be less selfish, try to make someone feel welcome and comfortable and do it all while having a good time. Sounds like it should be easy when I write this, but hey, I’m late-30s and single for a reason, maybe…
I did catch myself thinking that sometimes I was being ornery or difficult, and when I would, I would always try to correct those actions. To remember that I was, in fact, actually very happy to have her here with me. The first day was great, the second two had the most adjustments, and days four and five found us in a rhythm. On the sixth day, the day she left, we were clicking. I think it was in part because we built on that rhythm, but also because I knew I was going to miss her. We found a little extra of that which we had in Portland. We had only “been together” a little over two months when I was still on the West Coast. There had been five weeks in between the last time we saw each other. There was a lot to adjust to. But we did, I think. She’s a happy and optimistic person, at least around me, and I don’t think she let my tendency to be a curmudgeon erode her good times, good faith or good intentions. Another life lesson, perhaps.
And then she left. Just like that. As soon as it started, as long as we’d waited to see each other one more time, it was over. I often get a little teary-eyed when I make my exit; I did each time I left Portland when I stayed with friends off and on over the years, and I did today when I dropped her off. She didn’t see it though; I had on my sunglasses and I didn’t say much. My voice was clenched up a bit. We never talked about “the next time” we’d see each other. Will there be one? This time we did say goodbye; last time we only said “see you soon”, even though a future rendezvous had not yet been formalized. Was there an omen in that unintentional act of saying goodbye? Were we both unconsciously admitting that this relationship that had carried so much weight and value may indeed be over?
I had long ago made plans to be back out in OR for some concerts before I’d ever met her. This is roughly 2.5 weeks from the time of writing. She knew of this, but it was never mentioned. I won’t be in Portland, but nearby. I could see her again, even if it was only for a long afternoon. But I didn’t play that card. Why? Further postponement of the inevitable? Fear that it will be less special? Maybe I’m just ready to be done with the relationship in that capacity. I don’t know. I don’t think I am though. I imagine I’ll tell her, or more accurately, remind her that I’ll be out there soon. I may do so tonight when she checks in between flights. Life is hard enough as is without adding further baggage. Maybe I should let the airlines lose this one…
When I was getting ready to pull away from the airport, I looked at her walk away. I was sad and happy at the same time. The former was obvious; she was leaving. The latter, not so much. Perhaps because I was happy for the weekend, and the opportunity to see her again, possibly because I think we did alright for that time we shared, even if it was now done as we knew it. Every time I have a relationship, I walk away from it feeling as if I learned something; not necessarily to make me a better person outright, but to be a better person to the other person in the relationship. Maybe that is the same thing. I don’t know. I miss her, and I imagine I will for some time. But I can’t help but wonder about the day when I don’t miss her any longer, or the day where I think about someone the way I currently think about her. I don’t like that idea, but I know that it is, too, inevitable.
What started as a chance encounter near a bathroom at a concert turned into something that was thoroughly captivating. If this is all there is, it was truly special. From one coast to the other, a great time and a great connection that helped to etch my being. She may have walked away for the last time, but her presence will linger in the wind, and my thoughts, for much longer.