If I were to write the scene, it would go like this: the election is over, and the president is giving his speech. You don’t own a TV, but your neighbors do, and from where we sit on your living room floor, we can hear the news pouring through the walls, through the ceiling. Fireworks in the drizzling sky. People cheering down the street. I will always remember, the first time you kissed me, the cat threw up on the rug.
Thirty-six hours before, we were hiking the Winding Mountain trail along the Columbia River Gorge, in the fog, in the odd November warmth. You asked me why I was with you, and I slipped and fell in the mud. I spent the rest of the day with dirt on my pants, spent the rest of the day complaining about the dirt on my pants, spent the rest of the day watching you scratch your head as to why a girl would be bothered by dirt on her pants. Mud on her clothes, rain in her hair. No, I do not sleep on cots. Yes, you’re quite right: “the princess and the pea.” But back to your question—why was I with you? I don’t remember the answer I gave, but I know the one I was thinking: on the drive up, we’d passed a street named Rike, and you laughed and told me, “I thought that said ‘Rilke,’” when I was thinking the very same thing. And next, I thought, There. This is it.
Rilke said, “The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
The question: though I do not want mud on my pants, do I mind if there’s mud on yours? No, I don’t mind. Yes, go ahead, have dirt on your clothes, oil and sawdust and rust on your skin, but know that you will leave my presence smelling of Chanel and black amethyst. Yes, please keep your beard, but know my hair will be glossed and straightened, perhaps sometimes even curled. Yes, please grow your garden, but know that I kill plants. I forget them. I don’t know what they need. I do not know the answers to their questions.
Your eyes are the color of the calm open ocean, that spot just past the end of the pier, where I would look down as a child when we walked out to Ruby’s for vanilla soft serve, plopped in cones that tasted like nail files. You make ice cream in your fully stocked kitchen, flavors like fenugreek raisin and goat’s milk mint. You build. You sew. You can repair my broken car. And what do I bring to this? My words, and more love than I know what to do with.
Rilke said, “As if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.”
I will remember the way you traced my arms as if to memorize me, muscle and bone, freckles and scars. How I wanted to press pause on that moment and suspend us the way both the moon and sun sometimes hang as full globes in the summer evening sky. That image always makes me think of Tatooine, the Star Wars planet of two suns—not quite reality, and yet, more real than we know what to do with.
The sky has stopped raining. The porch light flashes on and off as your neighbors go in and out for cigarettes. The president is done talking, the cat is asleep on the chair, and we lie on the freshly scrubbed rug, the smell of piñon incense working its way into my hair. I will not have time to wash it when I finally leave after one, and the scent will follow me to work the next day, where for six hours, I will shift my head this way and that, until I catch you in the air around me.
The scene: I wouldn’t end with how I’d be awoken at six by a blaring alarm, heart pumping fast after a mere three hours of sleep. I wouldn’t end with the end of the hike, when you walked off to pee behind a tree, and I didn’t know where you’d gone and thought for those longest thirty seconds that, no, this wasn’t real, I’d imagined you after all, and now, I was alone in the woods with no idea how to get back to where I’d started. No, I wouldn’t end with that. I wouldn’t even end with how the breath escaped my mouth slow and full when you reappeared on the path. I would end with the moment I lay down that post-election day dawn, how I settled into bed still feeling your hands, fell into the space I created between my pillows, and thought, before I dropped into my deepest sleep in weeks that, yes, I have the answer now, I understand: reality has been made better than anything I have ever invented.