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  • "Do you know where I can find a pile of rocks?"

    "Right now?" I asked.

    He looked somewhat sheepish.

    "Yes? If not, I can just walk around and look for a rock," he said.

    "Sure."

    It made sense to me.

    My cousin and his boyfriend had been traveling the country for months, living in RV parks and occasionally crashing on couches or getting hotel rooms. For a week or two (maybe three), they would stay with me. I wasn't home much, but my place was small. I could understand the desire for some time alone, even if it was just a rock hunt in the dark.

    After a weekend away followed by several days of working at home, I needed space, too, but not from them. (They are crazy conscientious.) I needed to stretch my legs. Walk. Breathe some fresh air. I walked to the store for nothing at all but the chance to get out and meant to walk home, but I had run into a friend.

    Actually, I had apologized to a vaguely female shape in the store in the peanut butter aisle. I didn't mean to get in the woman's way. Why was she staring at me?

    Oh.

    When I looked in her face, something clicked. My brain started to fire, and I laughed in embarrassment. I had known the woman almost 15 years. I was just out of it, tired, and aching. Focused on figuring out what else I "needed" to buy. I didn't expect to see someone I knew, much less the friend who had offered marriage in response to my MS diagnosis. I could provide health insurance, and she'd push me around in a wheelchair.

    The fact that we were both straight didn't factor into our theoretical marriage. We had terrible track records where dating was concerned. Getting married could do little to derail the train wrecks of our love lives.

    That night, she offered a ride home from the grocery store, and even though I wanted to walk, I preferred catching up with her more. We talked of getting together for dinner, coffee, a walk. October looked bad. Maybe November? At some point, we would see each other again; with a little luck, I would recognize her.

    I ran into my cousin as I climbed out of the car. He ducked out to the van for a plastic bag with contents unknown, and now, he was looking for a rock.

    "A month ago, they dumped two truckloads out back. I'm not sure how many are left, but there must be something there."

    I had no idea what he was doing, but I led him down one alley and then another to a diminished pile of rocks. I stood in the dark with a grocery sack of random, unneeded things as he looked - picking up rocks, tossing them aside, and settling on a few likely candidates that he slipped into his bag.

    At home, he pulled out a palette, some brushes, and paint. He sat at the table and disappeared into a world of his own as his boyfriend and I watched TV and talked. Later, he joined us. Later still, he asked if I wanted to keep his rock, and I did.

    I have no idea where my cousin went while he painted. I have no idea where I will go when I write, but being creative seems to open a world greater than the walk between a rock hunt, grocery, and home. Being creative seems to offer the space that we need.
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