Thursday, February 21, 2008

Part IV: The Proposal

On June 3, 1995, my sophomore year of college was officially behind me and my apartment was mostly packed. I had said farewell to my roommate for what looked to be an excrutiatingly long summer. I was slated to move home, reclaim my bedroom from my sister once again and work the same summer job at which I had toiled away for the past two years. But promising to write (because although I had email at that point, not many others did) and hopefully visit my roommate over the summer was a different pain than the thought of separating myself from the other person with whom I now spent every waking hour.

It pains me to admit this, but I couldn't stand the idea of being away from Mitch an entire summer. I liked my carefree college world that lacked much responsibility or oversight and included vast amounts of free time I filled with last minute trips to Las Vegas, afternoon hikes up Cedar mountain, climbing trips to the Parawan Gap, blanket huts in the living room, long work-outs at the school gym, evening swims or raquetball games, trips to the health center for stitches (okay, this part was not so much fun as it was memorable - of course I was the one getting stitches, in my leg, after falling out of a tree) and the innumerable excursions to the surrounding national parks and Red Cliffs - where the sun was almost always shining and warm just 40 minutes away while Cedar's high altitude was still suffering from spring chill. I knew the magic spell would be broken as soon as I left the Spruce Apartments.

And so did Mitch.

That last Saturday, full of expectation, we took one last adventurous drive together down I-15 and took the exit to Toquerville. In my rusted top Pontiac 6000 I joked was "hoping to grow up to be a four-wheel drive" we turned off Main Street and onto the dirt road that wound up some cliffs and back to the oasis that felt as if it was all ours. I knew what was coming and I wanted it. I was not thinking about the long-term future, I was thinking about preserving the most recent past and present and this was the only way I thought it could be done.

I was also desperately afraid of ending up alone.

We went for a hike and stopped at a stream with black lava rock cliffs rising and falling on either side at uneven intervals, a red clay creekbed and a couple of patches of cottonwood trees here and there marking the winding course of the water over the dry desert. Dressed in my favorite cut-off denim shorts, nike hiking shoes and oversized tie-dye shirt, I picked my way over protruding rocks in the creek until I found one to settle on to observe the scene.

Over one of the distant bluffs dark clouds hung low, heavy with rain. I saw them without registering their intent and failed to predict how effortlessly they would soon block the bright sun I was basking in at that moment.

I too caught up in my own thoughts guessing at the words Mitch would choose.

As I sat on the rock, he waded out into the creek to examine various pebbles he retrieved from the stream. I knew it was now or never. How could he wait for a more opportune time or pictoresque locale?

He turned, took my hand and said words I will never remember that caused me to leap off my rock and shout yes as I flung myself into his arms. He didn't have the ring but handed me a rock with a faint white ring around it.

For the better part of the last year I had carried a small rock I had found on a favorite trail in my pocket. It was a salmon colored arrow-head shaped rock that I carried to remind me of a personal crisis and a promise I had made to myself. I carried that rock so I could escape to that lone trail to Crystal Spring when I needed to cleanse my mind and center myself.

Mitch knew I carried a rock but didn't know why. Apparently, I had forgotten myself. It was to remind myself of my own foundation. He was offering me a replacement and I snatched it up even as those ominous clouds moved overhead obscuring the sun and forcing us to make an early retreat to the car, racing to escape the thundershower as thick droplets fell heavy in the dust at our feet that was quickly turning to mud.

8 comments:

Tiffany said...

Keep it coming, sister, keep it coming.

(By the way, is this all first-draft writing? Because seriously. This is stellar. I'm guessing that it is, given your insane work schedule. Remember the chapter called "Composting" from Writing Down the Bones? I have thought about it often while reading this and I think it accounts for the beautiful way this story is finding its way into words.)

Beck said...

Good grief, you can WRITE.

katie said...

I think maybe we had the same Nike hiking shoes. I loved mine.

autumn said...

Wowzers, seriously good writing. I loved the last paragraph.

lizzie said...

i KNOW we had the same nike hikers...in different colors!

and i loved the last paragraph as well!

more, please!

mickey said...

It's like I'm watching you from just above your scene. Your writing is fantastic, it puts me there.

I wish I could write with such freedom and poise.

Sara said...

I know that last metaphor with the storm clouds is probably more literary than anything, but it makes me wonder . . . Wonder about how we force meaning into completely random things.

Looking back, you describe those clouds as a sign of ominous warning. Yet at the time, they were nothing more than rain clouds. Still, the ease with which you make comparisons between rain clouds and a bad omen are troubling. Don't get me wrong here, I don't think you're the only one who does it. I think religious people in general -- LDS or not -- do it all the time. And it's things like "signs" that get us into trouble. That cause us to think sunsets and springtime mean love and rain clouds should be an indicator for a stormy marriage.

These, sadly, are the things we look to to determine destiny, rather than the subtle, logical hints, like the fact that you had a sense of dread whenever you went to his family's house. Or a disagreement on a principle. Or a gradual lost sense of self.

It's troubling and sad. And I think the real answer to being self-aware and understanding what we want is not in looking for signs but in making conscious, deliberate decisions. Being "anxiously engaged" and in control of our lives.

Soul-Fusion said...

his Sara, thanks for reading. In this context, the metaphor is purely a literary tool. Yes, it started to rain just as I described but at the time I did not see the clouds as ominous.

I agree with what you wrote about "being anxiously engaged and in control of our lives." One of the reasons I am writing this story is not to look back at the "signs" of bad things to come like storm clouds and a broken ring, but to truly understand my own state of mind and learn how to be more in tune with my intuition and voice.

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