I was in love with a man when I was eighteen. We lived in a condo complex in a suburb of Denver and smoked weed together. Sometimes (often) we’d fill the tub and take bong hits out of a gallon jug. I would examine my face in the mirror with anguish.
In Denver the sun comes up cold and finishes strong. I rollerbladed the parking lots moating the complex in the mornings after everyone had gone to work. The skates had no brakes and one time I fell and ripped a hole in the knee of my favorite pants, these khakis an old man had probably worn before they were donated to a thrift store. No one saw me fall and no one helped me up. Blood on khaki.
The girl next door to us was almost as young as I was and she sometimes invited us over for cookies. She baked in the afternoons. The smell came in through the air ducts. I’d open the window and let in snowy mountain air. There was a blizzard in April. I stood behind the sliding glass door of the terrace and watched hail fill up an ashtray.
We played video games together. We went to the public library and checked out books on tantra and gardening but did neither ourselves. We ate tacos and drank margaritas. It was an unaccustomed lifestyle, both of us from the East Coast. We went to the same high school; he graduated four years before me.
Our neighbors fought every night. They were horrible fights, screams and yelps and the sound of heavy things falling. Broken glass. Sometimes, cops.
I couldn’t get a job. I only lived there three months. In the beginning it was the most exciting thing I’d ever done and by the end I couldn’t book a ticket home fast enough.
We went camping. We ate ice cream. We snuck into the movies. We went to the mall.
When you are eighteen anything is forgivable. It was more than just wanting someone to be next to but these days I see that girl as someone totally separate from myself.
He had a Honda Civic and we took it on long stoned drives through the Rockies. Scenic byways, curves the color of rust. The sunsets long and low and orange. We’d pull the car over and marvel at a tree or a rock or a broken-down house somewhere. This was before smartphones. I have no photographs.
When I left it wasn’t over but in some ways it was. Then when it finally was it still felt unfinished.
The last time we were in touch was the week he got married. I sent an email the morning of his wedding and he wrote back a few days after the ceremony. Who knows if his wife knows. Who knows if she’d have cared.
The best thing I did in Denver with him was walk Red Rocks. My cuticles were caked with red dirt by the end of the long paths. We went once a week, sometimes more. On weekends we went to a diner tucked in a corner around a bend in the mountains and ordered omelets and pancakes and piles of home fries. We went to Dairy Queen. We bought pot from some shady dudes in a condo complex down the street.
I would do it again. If I were eighteen, I would do it just the same. I’d listen to the same songs, sing along at the same parts, tell him the same stories. It was irresistible.
My mother’s best advice: Take notes. Write it all down. No experience is not worth having if it can provide a story later.
Or maybe that’s my interpretation of her advice. She probably said something else. Now, years after the Honda Civic and the Dairy Queen and the fighting neighbors and broken glass I’m just glad that’s not my life. Equally glad it once was.