Wide Open Spaces

We dragged our bikes up the hill, peaked over the top, and as if we had been twirled upside-down, saw the city below us like it was the galaxy our telescopes could never find.

______

It has to be the best feeling in the world when you fall in love with someone when they’re in front of a wide-open space, like a skyline or vast ocean or a mossy green forest. When you’re on the beach their naked feet are sunken into the millions of grains of sand shifting through their toes. They’re just one grain of sand, and your whole world sits in the crook of their smile. The beauty that surrounds them gets tangled up in the salty wind of their hair and nothing else exists except for that moment and that frame of existence, a raw negative exposed positive. There are so many places to travel but your country and your language is spoken in the rhythm of their body against the sea waves. 

______

It was the most complicated simplicity. You.

______

The first wide-open space I ever saw you stand in front of was our 2nd grade chalkboard. The white chalk puffed dust in front of your face, and you would occasionally make a swish movement with your hand to push it away. Sometimes though when you did that you accidentally touched your nose and got a little chalk residue on the tip of the illuminated peach fuzz. You were drawing a picture of a character from the book Mrs. J had just read aloud to us. You drew a little girl with big shoes and pin-straight hair with bangs. You seemed to turn around in slow motion when you finally finished the details, and I watched as your hair swung slowly around your shoulders and you looked pleased with yourself as you walked gracefully back to your seat. That was the first time. The whole rest of the classroom disappeared and the teacher’s comments didn’t exist, the only sound was my little boy heartbeat matching up with the scrawling beat of your chalk scratching the surface of the tall green board.

The second wide-open space I ever saw you stand in front of was your backyard tree house. We were in 5th grade and you invited me over to play. Our mom’s exchanged hellos for the first time and nice to meet yous too. By the time my mom walked out of the front door you had already moved toward your back window and your silhouette was black against the bright exposure of the outside light. Your tree house stood tall and majestic, representing my feelings at the time of seeing you stand there. I couldn’t see your face from the distance, only the way your hair was lit up from beyond the window frame and the way the sunlight hit the few stray frizzy pieces at the top. I knew then and there that day that I should have kissed you up in that tree house. There was nothing more romantic then the way the ladder swung beneath us creaking against the old bark of the Oak tree and the way you looked at me when you asked me if you should go get your radio so it wasn’t so quiet.

_____

I continued to fall in love with you in front of wide-open spaces as the years passed and we grew from 8-year-olds to 18-year-olds. Getting up the courage to ask you to prom was just as much courage as it took to ask you to marry me. I planned to ask you in a song I had written for you on the guitar, but one day when we were standing on the marina’s pier and I saw you with your feet dangling above the ocean I didn’t have my guitar, and couldn’t stop myself from asking you right then and there to the dance I was so terrified of going to. As you said yes a Seagull yelled as it flew overhead, applauding me on my approval and the goofy smile that spread from shore to shore. I think I felt a pat on the back from whatever sort of fate had allowed the word yes to escape from your mouth.

_____

I remember how we saw a rerun of Roman Holiday at midnight in the theater down the street. I remember the way the red velvet seat bounced slightly as I pretended to yawn just to lift my arm around your shoulder.

______

The first time we held hands was when we went to see that concert your friend gave us tickets to. I kept that ticket in my pocket for so long their band name wore off from the many times it rubbed against the inside pocket of my jeans. I thought it was my good luck charm, I could feel it inside the cotton lining just as I could feel your hand bumping mine until your pinky rested against the crevice of my finger, then turned slightly so your small perfection fit into my big mess. It was a wide open space in a small closed space, but I could only feel your hand and that consumed every emotion I had and I didn’t even care that the band was bad because you made them sing the most beautiful harmony. We stayed like that for a while, awkward and quiet, until a slow song came on and they sang about falling in love and you moved your hand around in mine a little bit and that was my most favorite memory of all.

_____

You told me you had been in love with me ever since you saw me swinging alone on the swings during recess one day in 3rd grade. You said you remembered me watching you from my seat in the 2nd grade, but you always thought I was kind of weird and there was a possibility of cooties, or so your friends told you. But now we were in a wide-open space in a giant field with golden grass and you were wearing a dress with wildflowers and your hand was only touching mine enough to make it tickle whenever you flinched. You laughed at my stupid jokes and looked down blushing into the grass as you twiddled it nervously between your right-hand fingers. Looking at you while you were looking at something abstract made me love you even more. We could feel the same because I was looking at something beautiful and so were you. I told you I had been in love with you since the 2nd grade and you learned addition. I said I learned that our two hearts made one whole.

______

When we were 30 and I had loved you for 22 years we decided to get matching ink on our bodies. I got a small heart placed over my heart, and you got a small heart placed over yours. You said when I smiled from far away you could feel my pulse on your chest and liked that feeling a lot. I tried thinking of something nice to say back to that but all I could do was smile and look at you because I had no words for something that made me so speechless.  I wasn’t ever worried that another person would have to replace your heart, I knew tattoos were permanent and that’s why I knew you were there to stay. My heart fell in love with you in the wide-open space of its own bloody never-ending tunnels of veins and cells. It would circulate from my head to my toes then come back around, a cycle of something that would come up to breathe then dive right back in.

_____

Your cane became a prop in our photograph in California on the Golden Gate Bridge. And on top of the Empire State Building. And the Space Needle. And Arches National Park. And the one of us kissing under the Eiffel Tower right after you first fell. The photographs were all framed and sitting on top of our fireplace mantel. In each photo I had my arm tightly around your shoulders, and there was a never-ending background, a wide-open space behind us. We used the rest of our money to travel the world and the lights from the carousel in Paris still reflect in your eyes as I look at you in the bland and cold hospital bed. I see your limp body still as it was years ago when you begged me for a few dollars to ride that carousel. You grabbed my hand and whirled me into your arms as you said please please please? I gave in because never could I say no to such a beautiful face. Looking at you now I don’t think it would have even been possible if I tried.

The hospital bed held you like I use to do in wide-open spaces. The machines hooked up to you were snakes tangled in trees and I hated the way I could hear each heartbeat in such a loud, monotone beep. I pulled your gown down to the left and saw the faded and wrinkled outline of my heart on yours. I placed my hand there and was proud of myself, of us, for knowing all along how permanent we always were. All I could do was look at you and remember that night with our bikes on top of the hill.

_____

You pulled up the sun with the blink of your eyelashes and slowly, on top of that hill with the city beneath you, you smiled and woke up the world, the reds and blues and yellows swirled together in your pupils, making the world a safe haven for all that that the dew withheld as the light turned red to green and the first puff of exhaust was exhaled.

_____

We rode our bikes down the hill, putting our feet forward and our hands gripping the breaks as we smiled and laughed that same smile and laugh that you get when you fall in love with a person in front of a wide-open space. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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  • guest

    There are a million words that I could say about this, about what emotions it stirred up in me, but really, the only two that I can say are “thank you”.

  • Bridget

    write a novel please!

  • Kori

    Write more please! This is absolutely beautiful.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful! Haven’t read something likes this for long. 

    I have always wanted to be in that kind of love for that long, reading about it makes me feel positive.
    Is he okay? : ( Thank you for this piece…

  • Ray Lotterby

    wow! Am still gathering my thoughts and still speechless…beautiful piece.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Awww.

  • Ijustgoyouknow

    Beautiful. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    goddamn, this is better than that piece about okcupid

  • LDN

    I can imagine this as a film.

    Make it a film.

    • Guest

      You can find this on the first 20 minutes of Up. 

  • http://unthoughtfulthoughts.wordpress.com/ Samurai

    now I want to fall in love.

  • Leila

    I’m in tears. Thank you.

  • Liz

    This was beautiful.  It reminded me of that scene in ‘UP’.  My only complaint was the typo at the end (should’ve been ‘brakes’) jarred my over-analytical sensibilities :(

  • Xxzarinamxx

    wow, this is extremely beautiful. keep writing things like this!

  • MrsJetson

    Beautifully written. Interesting and catching trope.

  • Sophia

    Tears, everywhere. You are wonderful and perceptive and I just don’t even know what to say.

  • http://www.visakanv.com/ Visakan V

    Very pretty! <3

  • Issacolmenares

    Love is hard to put down to words. You did it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1446189802 Carly Avezzano

    this is so beautifully written. wow. i’m speachless. thank you

  • REVIEWER

    this was beautifully written and i hope you know that everyone who reads this will feel elated and in despair all at the same time hoping that they will fall in love like this,in front of a wide open space

  • FSDFDS

    Going to poop the party here and say that I didn’t like this piece very much :/

    The writing is emotive and grabbing, but the content is simply too trite, too removed from real life experience. It reads like a collection of cliches – eight year olds in front of a chalkboard, a concert ticket, “cooties”, touring the world as a couple, starting down on a city from a convenient hill, even having one partner die in hospital. In what reality do relationships pan out in such a picture-perfect manner? A Ryan Gosling rom-com, I’d imagine, or a weepy Taiwanese drama.

    I get that the author is young (19 or so – she’s a sophomore, right?), though, so credit to her where credit is due, for trying to write something ambitious. I feel that her lack of experience in this area is holding her back.

    • AMY

      The fact that a 19 year old can even have this grasp on what love is, is reason to keep your comments to yourself and not “poop the party”

      • beatrice

        I disagree

  • http://twitter.com/Faelai Emily O'Donnell

    The subject mater was

  • http://twitter.com/Faelai Emily O'Donnell

    The subject mater was a bit cliche but the style of the writing literally gave me goosebumps. Well done.

  • Bd

    That was absolutely amazing. Don’t ever stop writing.

  • beatrice

    So happy I came back to this article. Absolutely lovely, too cliched, didn’t like the ending but alas, a worthy read :)

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