"It doesn't have running water. Or internet for that matter," she looked at me apologetically.
It sounded perfect. "That is completely fine," I tried to reassure her. "How much do you charge a night?"
"Oh it is not an Air BNB yet, but by the summer I will have her fixed up."
"Let me at least pay half of what you will be charging," I pleaded. "I want to know I can do this on my own; no more hand outs from strangers, please."
Ignoring me, she opened the refrigerator where gallon jugs of water waited to be use. Grabbing one, she grabbed a kettle and put it on the oven, pouring in the water gently. Returning to me she sat down at a warn down kitchen table, motioning to do the same. As I sat down, I smirked at the table, carefully running my hands across the small curve I sat at. This table was worn in such a beautiful way. I began to wonder if this was a family house for this woman back in the sixties. I pictured the sun beaming in the small windows off to the side, as two little children danced and ran around the one room that the kitchen and living room occupied. Looking back at the peppered hair woman I felt embarrassed by my daydreaming. As if I imposed on her history.
"Why do you need to prove yourself?"
"Last year just sucked. I absolutely was a suck fest, and I get that sometimes that happens," my voice started to become louder the more frustrated with myself I got. I always imagined that when I had this conversation with strangers, I would be a little more eloquent.
"You know, I had plans. Ever since I was a second-semester freshmen at university I always thought Georgetown Law would be where I was at by now. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be Alma Clooney before I even know Alma Clooney existed. There are girls and education and widows and gentle boys to fight for out there. And I am here!"
The kettle began to whistle, prompting the woman to get up. I felt exposed. All of my words laid out in front of me, mismanaged on the table. In between I could see the regrets and times I didn't take for my life to be on a different path. I became anxious waiting for her response. This has been happening to me a lot lately- needed to get it all out there and for someone to validate me right away. My best friend Lauren does this so well, she gives a thoughtful pause and begins with, "You're allowed to feel that way," before giving a home for my words.
As she continued prepping the tea, not a peep came out of her. What was I doing? I am taking up this woman's time. Should I continue why she made tea? Should I offer to help make the tea? How could one feel so ill-prepared for simple, every day life.
She turn around with a smile on her face. Setting the two cups of tea down, it was almost as if her ears perked up, "Please continue. So why are you here?"
"Instead of transferring to Georgetown, I decided to stay. It made sense, and I am so happy that I did. Then before my semester of student teaching, I met him. It was a lot of fun between him and I. Probably the most fun that I have ever had with someone. What made it even better was that he was leaving to travel; so once he left I would never have to see him again. It was like I could trust myself to have fun with someone, and not be confused by all of these relationship expectations. I was free, but someone was free with me."
Cupping my tea with both hands, my throat began to feel tight. This is when the anxiety sets in, it is almost routine for me. Fighting back the tears I took a sip. I read somewhere that if you grin and push your cheeks up really high, it keeps from the tears coming out. So I did that, I gave her a half hearted smile.
"I'm sorry, I am taking your time."
"No keep going!" Her demand almost startled me. It was as if I was giving her a play by play of her favorite soap opera. "It doesn't sound like too many people know about how you are feeling. Am I right? Is that why you are trying to spend the weekend in the canyon so that you don't accidentally spill out?"
I took another sip of tea as she quietly waited for me to continue.
"You know while he was gone, he would message me. I thought it was so thoughtful and nice. I went to my grandparents while he was away and even though I tried not to let myself go there, I imagined what would it look like if one day he came to visit too, with me? When he came back I was really nervous. I didn't expect him to. Knowing there was an expression date was easier. Honestly I was kind of pissed when he came back, it just wasn't part of the deal."
I tried to lay out the plan like life could be a series of bullet points: have fun, be free with someone the last year of college, graduate, go to law school, always keep your heart centered and safe. But if life was a series of bullet lists, we would be handed our list with our birth certificate.
"Now things aren't fun. They're messy and I am not a lawyer. I see girls in my non-profit cohort posting pictures of law school and I get so envious. That could have been me if I didn't meet him."
That struck a chord with her, instantly I could see her demeanor shift. I wanted to apologize and take it back. Didn't she know that I didn't really mean that? Every day I feel like it is an honor having someone like him in my life. It is this experience I never planned for. It has been hard and challenging, which I would take over boring and easy any day. But lately I have been wondering if I threw away all of my potential, waiting to catch a free bird.
Her peppered hair allowed me to trust the wisdom and experiences she had inside of her. I wanted to ask, are there some seasons where our potential doesn't show up in full effect? Are we to rest and practice self preservation, so that they next time we can jump entirely? I started to remember this talk I once heard how we each have a path. No matter which detour we take, we are all still on the same path to our destiny, it just might take longer and be more challenging in the face of those detours. Is he my detour? I felt my heart sink a little bit. As contradicting as it sounded I didn't want him to be a detour, he is so much more than that. He was like the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man all rolled up into once teaching me things along the way.
She leaned in towards me, "Are you scared or are you over him? What do you want to do? By the sounds of it you are scared."
"It is just hard," I sighed. Yet again I began to feel defeated. Never could I properly explain myself well enough for people to fully understand the gravity of it all. Then again maybe that too is part of self preservation. Maybe only then is that when we are truly exposed.
"So what, you aren't a lawyer. You don't seem like the lawyerly type to me." At least she was honest. "But you write don't you?"
I took another sip of my tea, confirming for her again.
"The world needs writers too. The world needs more writers. You were meant to meet him, so he could show you that you are a writer, not a lawyer. And you got to have some fun along the way. How beautiful is that."
I sat in silence trying to let her words and affirmations sink into me. I adjusted myself in my seat, trying to settle into the idea that I am a writer.
"So how many nights do you want to stay?"