Now the story gets hard.
Before I continue, I need to share a couple things. I realized last week that, in order to do this story justice, I would have to reread the journal entries I wrote during that time. Most of my journals are still in Colorado, where we lived for almost ten years and where our sons were born, but I do have the entries from this time period on my computer. This is because last fall I typed up these entries. Why these, specifically, you ask? Because September 23rd, 2014, marked the twentieth anniversary of the day we met. On that day I gave Claudia a printed copy of my journal entries, which I had never shown to her before. Yes, she thought that was pretty awesome and yes, it is pretty awesome. J
Typing up those pages wasn’t easy to do. In fact, I did quite a bit of squirming. I kept wanting to edit my words, to tone them down, but I didn’t let myself do it. Even though it was difficult to do, I wanted Claudia to see what was in my heart at the time. The feelings expressed on those pages are pretty raw. It’s still hard to read them.
Why, you ask? (Geez, you sure have a lot of questions.)
I’ve always kept some pretty strong walls up around my feelings. I don’t always like it there behind my walls, but I’ve always felt I needed them in order to be safe. When I read those pages I’m transported back to a time when one woman absolutely shredded my defenses and really scared the hell out of me.
Anyway, back to the story. (The parts in quotes are direct from my journal.)
Up until that Saturday afternoon at the telegraph station it was all just a great game. I was having a lot of fun chasing after her and enjoying our time together but it wasn’t really real. It was only temporary, as relationships typically are when traveling. Traveling relationships tend to follow a certain pattern. Because you typically have only a few days together before your paths part, the whole courting thing is very compressed and very intense. A few days later you both go your separate ways. You miss the other person for a couple of days, but then something shiny and new comes along and it passes.
We met on Thursday. We spent Friday and Saturday together. On Sunday Claudia had scheduled a day-long tour with a tour group. Then she was going to fly away on Monday. I knew this all along and accepted it. I managed to talk her out of the tour so we could spend Sunday together and we spent much of it lying in bed, just holding each other. It was very special, but I knew it was limited and I thought I was okay with it.
I was completely deluding myself. But not for long.
“Sunday night I broke down – how many years has it been? – and we cried and cried together. The thought that she would fly out of my life on Monday afternoon forever had become a sudden, overwhelming ache in my chest that I could no longer seal away.”
After the crying Claudia changed her flight from Monday to Tuesday. Then on Monday she changed it to Thursday. Each time I was like a condemned man getting a phone call from the governor. But the governor wasn’t commuting my sentence, he was just postponing it.
Meanwhile, my defenses were getting absolutely hammered. From my journal just after she flew away on Thursday: “We have talked so much, our hearts and souls so close. We have stared into each other’s eyes. We have laughed and been silly and we have taken turns crying and consoling. We have held each other close and shared things I would not limit by trying to put into words.”
At least all was not lost. During the week we had made new plans. She had a dive trip booked in Cairns for the weekend that she was locked into. After that she had plans to fly to visit a family friend in Melbourne. She was still committed to that, but she would hurry it up and meet me in Melbourne the following Friday, the 8th of October. That would give us a week together before she flew back home on the 15th.
Anything could happen in a week.
We also talked about the future. Even before her breakup with her fiance she had a growing dissatisfaction with her life. She’d always done the safe, logical thing: straight from (the Swiss version of) high school, to college, and the good paying job. But she had a nagging feeling that something was missing. She had a desire to leave the safety net and fly.
I was planning to tour around the United States the next year, working my way along, and I gathered my courage and asked her if she’d like to join me. She just lit up when I said that.
But of course it wasn’t that easy. Give up all she’d worked for and take off with a guy she hardly knew? Not just any guy either, but a long-haired, unemployed writer for God’s sake! What kind of craziness is that? What would her parents think? What would her friends think? (Strangely, there was no discussion of what my friends or family would think. The assumption being that they were already quite used to my bizarre behavior and there wasn’t much I could have done to surprise any of them.)
It scared her; I could see that. But she held onto me and told me she wanted to take the leap. There was hope for the future! Bluebirds sang and bunnies danced in our path and all that. (Or that happened in a movie. I can’t remember. It was a long time ago.)
But first I had to endure a week apart from her and, I’m telling you, it wasn’t pretty. As soon as she flew away I got on the mother of all roller coasters and the ride was not fun.
Now the story gets hard.