It’s 2007 and I’ve met someone. We’ve founded something on our shared tastes, her curly hair and natural good-looks, maybe my broad shoulders help. I don’t think she knows this, but this could be my first real relationship. Certainly, I don’t tell her this. I try to give her the impression I’m experienced. I think she thinks I’d been places and done things. After all, I moved out to Seattle at a strange age, not right after college, but years later and not for graduate school, but for no other reason than to “try it out.” As I get to know her I begin, at the same time, to know other women. There are so many. I am shocked at the density. The Midwest might’ve had a few, but not like this, not at this, nearly comic, rate of singleness. No one is single where I came from. Everyone is married. Everyone is making children. It is 2007 and I am having the best time with the woman with curly hair. She is so wonderful. Still, there are others I need to explore. I believe I will never grow old. I will always be in demand. So I meet a scientist at a radio station. We are volunteers and I go to her apartment on the nights I don’t see the one with the curly hair.
I am practice swinging a bat behind the tall wire backstop at my elementary school playground. On my backswing, I hit a boy in the face. He’s probably the worst person in my class so I feel no remorse. He runs away as his cheek puffs up like so much chewing tobacco in the side of his mouth. It is 1988.
It is 2007 again and I have met not only the scientist, but also a young woman who is friends with the curly haired one. This new one builds houses and is very fit and is closer to my age. She is so attractive. I start to see her. In the same time, I meet another young woman, as if I’m on a bad television sitcom. She works for a community group that supports the riding of bicycles. She is full-lipped, with a large bottom and a soft face. I go to the library with her one day. We’ve rented a movie and gotten wine from the grocery store. Then, there at the library, I see the woman who builds houses. A friend of hers, of ours, is there, too. Later, that friend will refer to me as a “fucking asshole.”
I am driving down main street in Vermillion, South Dakota. It is 2003 and Vermillion is the first place I live on my own after college. I work at a school in nearby North Sioux City as a full time detention supervisor. As I drive down Main Street, I look to my left. I heard there’s a new Last Stop CD Shop opening in town and this is very exciting to me since I love music and write for Pitchfork. I am not looking at the road as a driver backs out into the street. I hit her back bumper. This is my first accident. I get out and see the one I’ve hit. She’s young and wearing a straw cowboy hat. She’s crying. This all seems like a dream because there on the sidewalk is my best friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years. He says he saw the whole thing. He has a full beard and is dressed in Amish grab, suspenders, black hat, black pants, white shirt. And just then, another person I know drives by and asks if I’m okay. This isn’t a dream, I’m mostly sure.
It is 2007 again and the one with curly hair is on my mind. The scientist is not right. She needs me to hold her for some kind of hurt I don’t understand. The one with the full lips is too experienced. In her presence, I feel like a junior high kid playing on the varsity basketball team. The only woman I need to tell my true feelings to is the one who builds houses. So I do. I tell her. I tell her we should just be friends and I am lucky it goes well. I go back that night to the one with curly hair and tell her what I’d done, about how I’d been with the one who builds houses and that, “It’s okay now, it’ll just be me and you.” After I tell her this, the one with curly hair runs away. We’re in Gasworks Park and she is going toward Lake Union. Her hair has been straightened and as I watch her run it flies behind her. And if I hadn’t been talking to her moments before, I wouldn’t have known it was her. She looks so different with straight hair.
It is 1999 and I am feeling terrified of getting someone pregnant. I am not ashamed that I was raised this way, to not know it’s possible to have sex without getting a woman pregnant, but, nonetheless, I am in her lofted bed and it’s dark outside. I am a teenager, and I am terrified. Though I hardly prayed much before this night, I begin to pray. I ask God to please just get me out of this, just this one time. And, if He does, I’ll be faithful for the rest of my life. No one becomes pregnant. I become a follower of Jesus. Though I break my promise, I do not follow Him the rest of my life.
I do not fight for the one with curly hair in 2007. After she ran away to the lake, our time together begins to fade. A tragedy then occurs as the one with the curly hair nearly dies in a bike accident. I sleep with her the night before it happens, then leave a little past midnight, as I don’t think we should be sleeping together all night. We shouldn’t be pretending that we’re close. The one with curly hair is lucky to be alive. She comes out on the other side of the accident with a scar on her left cheek. It enhances her attractiveness. She goes away to finish college and I watch her leave, believing it’s best this way. Now I will not be fettered. I even consider her withdrawn nature the time I visit her in Bellingham to be a blessing.
It is sometime in the winter of 2006 and I am in Alabama for the second time in my life. I have come to leave a hand-written letter in the apartment of a woman I hardly know. I push it through the slats of her front door. Now I can see it, there on her wood floor.
It is 1985 and I am a little boy. It is my first year of school, perhaps even my first day. I am at my desk and it must be time for crafts as I have a scissors in my hand. I wonder what it would be like to cut a hole in my sweatshirt, this, my red Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. I can’t resist the urge and cut through it and even as I am doing it, I don’t understand why.
I’m in Alabama in 2006 again, staying in a hotel room downtown and watching the NFC championship game. I walked to the hotel, not really knowing where I was going. In the morning I will be sitting on a park bench, listening to music on my iRiver Clix and waiting for a phone call from a woman who sculpts for a living. She is a sculptor, a lover of men, and of God. I am there in Alabama to see if I can talk her out of the decision she’s made, the one where God showed her that she and I are not meant for each other. There’s a letter sitting on the floor of her apartment. She never comes home that weekend and I go back to South Dakota, knowing I should move away, even farther away from Alabama. I find a place to stay on the west coast. There I will meet a girl with curly hair.
I am in love, entirely, infinitely, with a houseparent. It is 2003 and I know what it is now, what they say it’s supposed to feel like. We work together at a Christian group home in Nebraska and after our year together she leaves without saying goodbye. I think of moving to Iowa City where she lives. Maybe get a job and an apartment. I do not. Instead, I pray daily that she would be a part of my life. It’ll be like this, this falling for her, for almost three years, until I meet a woman from Alabama.
It is later and the one with curly hair lives with her boyfriend in Seattle. I see her only a handful of times. Later still, I move away. More years go by. I write this.