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A Letter to a Girl I’ve Loved: On the Anniversary of Our First Road Trip
I was cradled and rocking in a pink hammock in the middle of the desert. You were stretched out on a yoga mat reading a book a few feet away. We had a cozy and eccentrically decorated yellow house in the middle of Joshua Tree all to ourselves, a few miles from Palm Springs. Our first and only road trip we took together.
I spent two hundred dollars on four bottles of wine. I bought some of the most expensive bottles at Whole Foods and I took great care in pairing cheese with them properly. I bought those rosemary crackers we loved, even though we complained that seven dollars was way too much to spend on crackers. You were obsessive about what we were going to cook. What spices were we bringing? Who was bringing the olive oil? We had almost a 45 minute phone conversation about whether or not we should grocery shop together or separately. We agreed that I would make dinner the night we got there, and you would make breakfast in the morning. We’d go out to eat in Palm Springs, or at Pappy and Harriet’s.
I fell in love with you continually and inevitably. I fell in love watching you sprawl out on the couch, twirling your messy blue hair and making faces at my camera. You were comfortable enough around me to be at least partially naked most of the time, lounging amongst mismatched mud cloth pillows in a grey tee shirt and lace underwear. I have a video of you making silly faces, but you didn’t know I was recording; I still watch it sometimes. In sharing such a quiet, ordinary moment with only you as my stimulation, I wanted to count all the different ways I found you to be beautiful. Enthralled by your awkwardness and comforted by the sound of your laugh. Studying your hand tattoos and the way your toes curled. How your skin turned this perfect olive tone after an hour in the sun. I was a tomato in ten minutes.
That brown tiled shower seemed like it was designed specifically to have sex in. Large enough to comfortably fit two people, maybe three people, complete with a pedestal for sitting. My fingers tangled in your wet locks, sharing soap and kisses, switching spots under the stream of water. You sat with your legs open and the water directed onto your breasts. That’s the only time I’ve ever had shower sex. It felt endless, simultaneously dirty and refreshing.
I fell into deep fascination with you sitting in that hidden wine bar on Palm Canyon Road, eating pretzels and cashew cheese. I listened intently and gazed into you as you told me stories that I’ve already heard multiple times. But each time, I found something new to learn about you. You rarely ever asked reciprocating questions, and I’m not one to talk about myself unless I’m prompted, so a lot of the conversation revolved around you. I didn’t mind it. I wanted you to tell me everything. Tell me anything. Tell me new stories, old ones, anything so that my love keeps growing.
I found a New York Times article entitled “36 Questions To Fall In Love With Anyone”, and I thought it would be a good idea to light a bonfire, open a bottle of red, and answer the questions back and forth. It’d be intimate and fun. We’d learn new things about each other, we’d share new sentiments and secrets. I already was so in love with you, I was sure these questions would be a breeze.
And then, question 7. “Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?”
You stared into your wine glass.
“I know I’m not going to last very long.”
In a dark and bizarre turn, it felt like all the sunshine, the sex, the food, the laughter in that entire weekend became completely meaningless.
I’ll never, ever forget how the tears rolling down your face glistened in the flickering of the fire. Your glassy eyes and the choking sounds. The way you recoiled into yourself. The hopelessness and the shame and the frustration that burst through you by a question that haunts you more than it does the average person.
I placed my wine glass on the ground. I took yours out of your hand. I pulled you into my body as close as I could in a protective cradle. There was nothing I could say that could take your reality away from you. There was nothing I could say to make that pain go away, but I wished so bad that I could fight it for you. Like if I held you close enough, all of it would spill out of you and wash over me and I’d carry it for you. I kissed your head. Stroked your hair. I rocked you in my arms as you cried.
God, I’ve never wanted to protect somebody from themself so strongly in my life.
You slept on the drive back to LA that Sunday night. I’d look over at you every few moments and had such tender affection for how you leaned against the window and how your breath turned into a sleepy coo. Even when you were asleep, you were innocently beautiful. I pictured all the future road trips we’d take. You huddled in the passenger seat while I made sure to safely get us home, with my jacket draped over you and soft RnB lulling from the radio.
When we got home, I told you I wanted to travel the world with you. I wanted to eat new foods, get lost in foreign maps, and share skylines and seascapes. I wanted to be intoxicated by teas and wines with you. Intertwine my body with yours on friends’ couches and in more eccentrically decorated Air Bnb’s. Meet you in a European city just for a night of some dinner and intimacy before boarding a flight again the next morning. All with you falling asleep on my shoulder on every plane.
We only ever made it to Joshua Tree. But for some reason now, any time I’m on a plane, I close my eyes for a brief moment and imagine you sitting next to me. I try to imagine the weight of your head on my shoulder. Or how we’d look with our laptops open, answering emails at 33,000 feet. We only ever made it to Joshua Tree but in my mind, we’ve already been all over the world.