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  • She packed lightly, taking only her dog, Akisha, and her dreams with her to Washington State. The ungainly house, the little red Beemer, the high-paying job with title, and her husband's claustrophobic demands could all be left behind without the slightest backward glance.

    Staring at the beautiful earth-toned tipi she had just erected filled her with pride, and she took her first long slow breath in years. Akisha wagged her tail, seeming to sense the significance of the moment. That night, looking up and out the opening at the apex of her new home and into the moonless night, she cried long and hard, finally shedding decades of conformity and expectations that had not fit her for a very long time. When the sobbing subsided, dawn broke crisply, the seeping cold stinging her still-wet tears. Though sleep had eluded her, her dreams had not, and she rose with the kind of deep satisfaction that most people do not dare fathom.

    Years later I lost touch with my friend, but not before visiting her twice. During my first trip I slept under the stars in the tipi's opening, rising to the icy late-fall, jogging until sweat obliterated any hint of coldness, and then traveling to a freezing communal shower where Jeannie, upon seeing me naked for the first time, uttered words I will never forget: "Your body, it's so beautiful, so sensual." I remembered then that the dog had licked her privately the night before and wondered for a moment if she was exploring her sexuality anew, and then wondered if she wanted to explore it with me also. But it was a fleeting thought, and a topic we would not broach until years later, over the phone, when she would admit that I might have been the one woman she could have loved in "that" kind of way.

    My second visit was a year or so later, when she had moved out of the tipi and into a tiny mildewy trailer while she built her geodesic dome. The significance of her altruistic soulful labor, her sacrifice of every modern convenience to pursue her deepest yearnings, and her adherance to her primal sensitivities was lost on me then, but not now, and I wish I could find her again, not to love her like a woman would, and as she deserves to be loved, but to look her in the eyes and tell her how proud of her I am and was for overcoming atrocious memories, cancer, disappointments, and true hardship; for refusing the false life that had begun to bring her creature comforts in spades, but which was deadening her from the inside out. If I found her today I would say, "I see you, I love you, and you are amazing."
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