The story starts three years ago on a cool September night in the desert. If I were given the opportunity, I would tell her to wear something other than her brown peasant skirt. I would try to explain how this night would occupy her every thought for the majority of the next few years, how it would likely change her life. It doesn't matter, because she wouldn't have listened to me anyway. She loved that brown skirt. She would tell me that it made her feel like Joan Baez and reminded her of San Francisco. Her hair was long, her eyes were wide, and she was living life on her own terms, although she wasn't quite sure what they were just yet.
Her life as she knew it was just beginning. The night was idyllic and warm. She was young and alive and determined to experience the fullness of whatever life threw at her.
I am still amazed at her ease with herself. She was sitting on the floor, shoes long ago abandoned near the front door, her legs curled underneath her. Her tanned, dirty feet peeked out from under her brown skirt. Playing cards were strewn about her. Her hair was the color of coffee, her eyes the color of chocolate. I imagine that she must have smiled as he introduced himself, even as she stifled a laugh at their clumsy handshake. He was standing and she was still on the floor. Later that night, she would obsess about that greeting, wondering if anyone had noticed her momentary inelegance.
And it was as simple as that. No sort of indication that the meeting would be earth-shattering or life-altering. Just another new face in a never-ending line of strangers. She felt the winds changing and saw the stormclouds rolling in, but didn't see any cause for alarm.
Everything was vague and undefined. She was unable to voice all the questions running through her mind. She was dancing in a fog, never once fearing the final outcome. Young and invincible, she remembered and believed every word he spoke.
She was waiting for the dawn. The uncertainty was unfamiliar; she was wholly unaccustomed to self-doubt. She remembers these times in song lyrics, shy glances, parroted jokes, movie quotes, restaurants, park benches. Most of all, she remembers them in writing. Letters which seemed to tie the two together, creating a fine silver spiderweb which stretched back and forth across the globe. Anxious e-mails, feigning casual indifference. These years are well-documented in her seven journals, as she feverishly scribbled secrets, speculations, and souvenirs from these times.
The waiting and the distance were exciting and agonizing. She was a girl who loved a challenge, and was determined not to fail. Her feelings never took a backseat to her sense of competition, but the tenacity helped sustain her sentiments.
She was perceptive and self-deceiving. She saw each blow before it came, but was unwilling to surrender. She believed in this connection and would cling to it until the bitter end. She once told me that she would "wait until we go down in flames, just to know that the waiting was worth all the pain."
She would recount each beautiful memory, but they are flat and senseless without the music, the smells, the places, and the people that accompanied them. She would write volumes on each detail if she thought that it would make you understand. She tried to perfect every word, every phrase, until she realized that the more she analyzed, the more magic she sacrificed. As she paraded about with her descriptions, the glitter fell from her hair, the sequins from her dress.
The nearly weightless thread that had connected them was not powerful enough. It grew old and frail, slowly disintegrating before her disbelieving eyes.
She stood facing him for longer than she should have. She felt silly and worthless, but hoped against hope that he would speak, that he would tell her it had all been some furtive error and that she has been right all along. She waited until her heart hurt and her eyes burned with tears. She waited until she couldn't wait any longer.
She waited because she knew exactly what she would do when she finally stopped waiting.
She packed her bags carefully, folding each faded cloth and tucking it gently into her tattered suitcase, throwing away anything that would weigh her down on the rest of her journey.
She walked away, her heels tapping a resolute rhythm on the bare floor. Her eyes were dry and she never looked back.