In 2009 Mother’s Day was on May tenth and I was in Austin Texas working on a movie and stretching my heart muscles, getting re-accustomed to them and in a way I’d never known, deciding not to be afraid of it anymore. The night before I had talked on the phone to a girl who’s voice I’d only heard once before, six months prior and even then only about 30 word’s worth. She didn’t sound how I was expecting. It was lower then I remembered and there were a lot of pauses, hesitation. I probably sounded the same way. The girl had spent the better part of the previous week sleeping in Miami and now with a broken phone and only the ocean to shower in was ready to leave and for whatever reason she decided to come see me, a person she had only conversations of more than 30 words with via the internet. She had a wine-filled talk with me from Tulsa and a dream in April about our children and two weeks of late night gchats. When she told me online that she had a broken phone and was looking for where to go next I suggested Austin. She asked if it would be weird. I said I didn’t know. Praise the Lord that that was good enough for her to hitch a flight to Texas.
Goddamn the sun was bright that day. Goddamn the heat was present once it sank down. The humidity made her short hair a mane. She was the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. Still is.
The fears in my life that I would walk with, I would cram into my heart. And so it became the scaredest part of my body. I’d tuck it under a lot of things. Didn’t want folks to know if it loved them. Got me into some trouble. Some trouble with other sweet caring people, mostly with myself, throwing it down a well and sitting down there on top of it, down in the dark water not wanting to climb back out for fear that tender thing I was hiding would find its way into some sort of soft light.
She got out of cab by the river. We took turns riding a longboard down a hill. I don’t do things like sitting on longboards and riding them down hills. But my heart seemed to be taking the reigns this time around, punching my fear cross its jaw and saying uh-uh, I got this one.
We joined our friends at the swimming hole for Mother Day festivities. Everything was the easiest thing my life had ever held. On leaving we took the long walk around to the far exit. I heard my name being called out Anis….! Anis…! ANIS! There were two ladies sunbathing on the hill without shirts, swimsuits, or bras across their chests, waving me down to tell me they liked my poetry and wondering if I had any shows in town. I told them I had something that evening and with this girl standing next to me I did my best to remain cool and non-plussed as if giving directions to topless women was part of my everyday life and nothing to feel slightly strange about.
She stayed seven days and seven nights in Austin. She was gonna stay six but when I dropped her off at the airport on Saturday afternoon, the sky split itself wide open and the clouds shook so much rain out of them her pane couldn’t take off, so with a deluge of rain covering the Texas highway, I turned the car around to go pick her back up. We wandered through that week together, loosening one another’s knots. We rode a lot of bicycles. Roasted marshmallows by a canal. Standing up in the back of a pickup truck I kissed her as we rounded the corner of East 5th Street. We closed our eyes, held our hands together, and saw how far we could walk without opening them. Our first date was on Friday. We ate Mexican. She wore an orange dress.
A week later after returning to Portland with her heart in my hands and mine in hers, without fear of cars, or love, I danced in the middle of the street, told my mother about a girl I was in love with, and set to work burying my guns in the ground. I didn’t need them anymore.
Five years later, I still don’t. There is something strange and fascinating to me about the age of the internet, the open frontier of it. There is no reason to share all this with an unknown mass. I have my memories and hold them dear. But I guess it’s sort of related to some of the reasons for creating things in general––to stake a place in the dirt that marks off a spot that respects those very moments we hold dear. My wife might find this overly sentimental, which honestly is something I still love about her. But whatever reasons contributed to this girl hopping on that plane and to Mother Nature keeping her nearby and to her wanting to take my name and give me hers two years later, I’m thankful, and enough that I want to remind my little patch of dirt of this. Fear is a strange thing. It rears up when you least expect it, reveals itself to simply have been hiding in the earth, even when you thought it had left for good. But even on days when I hear its rusty songs trying to break from out the dirt, my heart turns away from its fears. Even as autumn falls to winter, so winter turns towards spring, and April turns into May. Sometimes it works hard to do such, to move from thunder to water evaporating off the petals. Sometimes it turns just as simply and easily as it did that afternoon at Barton Springs. But it still turns. This I am thankful for as well.