I came across a series of photos today. Had scanned them into my computer several years ago when you and I were just beginning to get to know one another.
You were away on business, I was tied here to work. We had just started dating.
I had this crazy idea that while we were away from each other for an extended period of time, we should send each other photos and explain the history of our lives.
What fun that was. We got to relive and rewrite a little of our experiences. To watch each other develop from infancy to near present was such a revelation.
I learned about your youth as the child of missionaries in Iran under the Shaw. Your time as a Peace Corp volunteer in Turkey. You were so fascinating – spoke Farsi and Turkish fluently. You – a short, fair, not a conventionally handsome man, who suffered with rosacea , who was giggly-thrilled to be with someone you thought so attractive and out of your reach.
You were only a little older – not even ten years between us. I think.
You helped me to feel comfortable with the friendship part of a healthy relationship. We talked about everything and nothing.
You were willing to take things slowly. To get to know one another. To explore our common ground. And what ground there was really.
Before the photos, before you left, before we knew each other at all… you asked me about my dreams, where I’d want to travel, what I’d like to see and do. I told you Turkey. That I’ve always wanted to see that place and sail through those channels and meet the culture. Maybe even speak the language. Wouldn’t that be cool? I asked. And to photograph everything. All of it. Every day. I smiled.
As I spoke, your eyes widened in disbelief. I thought perhaps you thought I was crazy – speaking about such distant and mysterious places. Speaking from my heart about things I’d never told anyone. Speaking about photography and languages and cultures, perhaps you’d find me boring.
Then you told me that you speak Turkish fluently, that other women in your life had had little patience for your photography addiction, that travel is one of your ardent past times and culture a deep and abiding interest.
It was my turn to look at you in that funny, stunned and open hearted way. You said no white women tourists speak Turkish.
We began to excitedly talk about what a trip there together would look like and what fun it would be to shock every one with even a small trial amount of Turkish coming from my mouth. And take as much time as we wanted to photograph whatever struck us.
You downloaded Turkish lessons for me and were astounded at what a great mimic I was. Perfect accent you said in awe. Perfect. Unbelievable.
When you left the second time, after the photos, after the sharing, after I began to think that maybe this could be something. After we’d kissed and loved and had the awkwardness about that part leave us. After we were beginning to begin… when you left and Paddy died while you were away…. When that happened and things took a turn – you came back from your trip and as we spoke about the death and I told you what had happened, as I cried and mourned with that low moaning sound that I knew you would understand… you backed out of my door, you backed down my stairs.
Talking all the time ,talking.
Your face white. Your hands gesturing.
You don’t know what you want right now. You said. When my dog died my whole life changed. You said.
You’re leaving? I asked. My heart watched you back, quite literally, out of my life.
I need you. I said. Please stay. I said.
I can’t. You said. You don’t know how this is going to change your life. But I do. You said. I can’t stay. Not now. It’s all – changed.
It’s OK. You can stay.
But you didn’t.
We emailed for several months. You said if I ever changed my mind... it didn't make sense... I hadn't asked you to leave.
I never saw you again.
Four months later I packed up everything that I hadn’t given away and moved to a little cottage by the beach in Central California.
I am still there. I still have those photos. I hope you are well.