It started with a road trip. You in the truck with your Dad's construction company logo on the door. You with the bulge of cash tucked inside the pocket of your jean jacket. Your dog looked like a coyote. You had a kooky laugh and a fondness for waffles. We drove from Chicago to Albuquerque, stopping only for coffee and all you can eat breakfast buffets. And ice cream. Soft serve. Always a cone for the dog.
I'm not sure my parents knew what to think when we arrived: dirty, tired and smelling of caffeine and fried foods. But they were happy to see us. We visited new age bookstores in Albuquerque and bought Bach flower remedies guaranteed to rescue us. From what? Confusion. Longing. Sorrow. (We might have gotten the same relief by hurling all the oft played tapes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell out the window of your truck.)
My dad showed you how to draw without lifting your pen from the page. "Trust in the form," he said. "Just let yourself go."
In my old bedroom, you asked if I'd ever kissed a girl.
The drive back to Chicago seemed to take forever. The downside of spontaneous road trips is that after the excitement has burned down, there's always a long ride home. Now there were only nerves and the unanswered question.
You were quiet and smoked a lot while I drove. We spent a night in Colorado with a cowboy poet you knew from somewhere. We slept beside each other in sleeping bags, curled like quotation marks, but not touching.
The next day, you stopped in front of my apartment and it took me a long time to open the door of the truck. One of us or both of us admitted to wanting to cry. Eventually, I shifted my bag onto my shoulder and climbed the stairs to my apartment.
I talked to friends about you. I made you a mix tape. You baked me a pie.
The thing about answering one question is that it just brings about more questions.
After graduation, we went to a party and you cried in the bathroom. I tried to comfort you and somehow, as if we were in a movie, my Dad walked in. He saw the way we leaned together.
"I'll leave you to it," he said.
Much, much later, when you had gone in one direction and I had gone in another, Dad and I shared a couple of beers and he asked after you.
"I could tell there was something," he said.
Years later, I sat at the singles table at your wedding and years after that, you came to my wedding, your unborn son just a little bump under your dress.
More than writing this letter, I'd like to pick up the phone. I'd like to hear your kooky laugh and get the update on your gorgeous family. I want to hear about your latest craft project and how you're going about saving the world a little at a time. Are you off wheat? Off sugar? Baking cinnamon buns by the trayful? You've got a new dog and though it's icy cold in your neck of the woods this time of year, you still refer to your house as sunny.
What in the world am I waiting for?