Sunday, January 20
I pace. Phone to my ear. Trembling with cold, sure, but more with nerves - I grew up here, in this Wisconsin chill; the sun's shining, the temperature at least twenty, my breath barely a puff beside me - and of course he jokes: "What if I say no?"
We talk. It's Christmas, both literally and metaphorically. He gives his blessing, and my worries previous, in hindsight, feel silly. He knows how happy she is.
For her, for me: the question is itself the answer. We've come to this together; my question is not a surprise, and yet, pleasantly, it is. I ask and ask and ask again, each day this being our choice - each other, now and onward; to infinity and beyond - and this is a life together we build. Day by day and yes by yes.
The trip stretches before us, surrounds us, a microcosm of trips before and trips to come. Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin: down. Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington: yet ahead. Hours in the car, hours to ourselves; hours of quiet company and the endless horizon and the big winter sky. It's like last year's spring trip, like last summer's vacation, like no trip before: winter is different, and now we're engaged. The car feels exactly the same, and somehow that's significant.
She drives and drives and drives, and we plan what already we've planned, what already we've known, what some part of us knew before even we ever met, what we've known intuitively. We'll marry on a lake, in the mountains, in the company of few. Chosen family will marry us, and chosen family will support us, and this community that comes together perpetually astounds us. We're surrounded by love - and the reminders of this are the best part of such a trip. This trip, especially: five thousand miles and thirteen states and fifteen days and fifty thousand smiles and our hearts breaking again, anew, with all this love. All these smiles and laughter and love.
I fall ill on the return. Spend my first conscious moments in Wyoming vomiting. It doesn't matter; we're together and we've each other and we've this family that just keeps growing, love and love and love.
In Minnesota we share boots and laughter and tears of joy, chosen family being chosen family and celebration's of love a given when we come together. In Wisconsin we share quiet company and simple, brilliant meals, find ourselves restored and rested. In Iowa we re-coffee over eggs and talk of miles behind, always looking to miles ahead. We're in the heartland, and our hearts ring full, spill over, touch the sky.
Then, Nebraska. The sun blazes for hours on the far horizon, the western half of the state one continuous field of old frozen snow, glaring. When finally the copper penny sinks behind the purple bruised plains and settles into night, a single star shoots across the sky. I'm feverish - bad relish in Omaha, we think - but a star she sees and a star I see and together were home in a full car speeding west across Nebraska's vast empty. Full with love, so full, and this trip'd already lasted forever and yet the better trip'd just begun.
Wyoming. Into Wyoming in the cold black night after a detour into Colorado; in the first rest stop I vomit. "In sickness and in health," she reminds me. In Utah I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze, cough and hack and gasp. Still, she answers with hesitation: "Yes." Again and again, yes.
By Idaho she's cold and I'm cold and our feet soak up the ice, pavement in the soles of our shoes and the air chilled ice, but I ask anyways, with this joy that still makes me nervous even as it's delicious - Will you marry me? - and she again beams, as sure of it as her name. Of course, yes.
She's known all along, I think. Melville's whale, she proclaimed, when yet this thing was unspoken, a wee sapling, an idea I'd avoid and she'd coax out. I've needed coaching, being previously better acquainted with doubt than hopeful belief. But I've her help. I'm forgetting my own bad histories and worse ideas; slowly I've learned to live in the present. Her heart she gave freely: without qualm, fearlessly, admittedly vulnerable. Much have I learned, and much more yet will I. Love? Yes. Of course, yes.
In Oregon her best friend stuck me full with needles, these sinai of mine in need of draining. Kerr'd her own share of needles; Cayly, seeing the two of us so stuck: "The two of you have such positive energy." I'd be so stuck any day. And hope to everyday, for the rest of my life.
Understatements, these are, so I'll close with this: good things are happening, very good things, and I couldn't be happier. Neither, I think, could she. This story's still writing.
We're home now. Back on our trails, in our mountains. So starts the next chapter, the next story, the next verse, the next trip. I've a good feeling about this, is what I'm saying. Yes, yes, yesses in our future.