All the Kinds of Love

Musings

I recently went to visit my boyfriend—hmm. It’s real fun saying that. I think that may be the first time I have said that about him. At least in writing. Anyhow, digressions are my favorite—in Pennsylvania. Where he lives. And yes I live in Wyoming. Let the record state that long distance relationships are real challenging. But if it is with someone truly exceptional, as fits the bill with my boyfriend, then they are also truly worth it. Again I digress. None of this is the point.

Visiting him was… I don’t even want to insert a word there, like incredible or wonderful, because those are just words that are vast and don’t really hold the meaning of what I felt being in his home. His home where he puts his feet down on the hardwood floor in the morning and walks to the shower. Or eats cookies standing up and drinking his milk slowly. Way more slowly than I drink milk, especially with cookies. Where he brushes his teeth and dances with his dogs: Moses and Chubs, totally differing in personality, Moses being sort of subdued and sweet and Chubs being overeager, because she’s still young and fiercely excited for attention. Moses has the same personality as my brother Nick. And I don’t mean this as an insult to Nick. It’s a compliment. I think Nick is darn near perfect in his sweetness. His temperament of not wanting to upset any balances or ruffle feathers and doing exactly as he is told. That’s how Moses was and I loved it.

Being there and walking around his yard, checking out the chickens and goat, who also seemed as curious about me as I was about them. Or writing in his kitchen while he made me lunch and would continually come over to kiss my cheek and smile at me. Then when I got up to refill my coffee, which was really just a ruse to be near him, he pulled me to him and sort of swayed with me right there in the kitchen as he always has music on. And I thought, well… isn’t this lovely… being held in his light blue kitchen with exposed barn wood, lounging dogs and rustic cowboy décor. And with a man who always smells fresh and has this really Colgate-y delicious breath that made me constantly fret over my own breath.

In fact, after lunch one day—which was pulled pork, except I had mine on a salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing—I went to brush my teeth, because well, yikes. But also I was about to meet his family for the first time and I wanted to make an impression that didn’t include raspberry beef breath which is exactly what I said to him when he asked if I was ready to go. He was rinsing his plate as I made my way to the bathroom.

“Wait a minute!” he yelled, “you better not brush your teeth yet! Raspberry beef breath?! Get over here,” he said with a seductive little smile like he was very enticed by my lunch breath. I began to laugh and came back to the kitchen. He grabbed me and began to kiss me, pulling me into the living room and then tipping me over the back of the couch so we both toppled and I landed on top of him.

“Beef breath huh?” he said, while continuing to kiss me. I giggled and squirmed to get off of him so I could go brush my teeth.

“Okay, get off of me and go brush your teeth,” he said while clutching me tighter to him. I tried to pull away and he pulled tighter. “Well are you going to go?”

“I can’t!” I laughed.

“Oh my gosh, get off of me,” he said, while still holding me tight.

I finally weaseled my way off of him and went to brush my teeth, chuckling the whole way to the bathroom and thinking if a man still wants to smooch me with raspberry beef breath, he’s probably a keeper.

Then there was flying in his plane. I wish I had words for this as well. But I don’t because certain things in life leave me utterly speechless in the most profound way and I know it’s God letting me know that not every thing or every experience can be assigned a word—when some things simply illicit overwhelming feelings of awe, wonder and intense gratitude for the moments that belong to you. And being in a plane, that my boyfriend flew, while staring out at patches of land, clouds, lakes, rivers, sunshine, birds and barns, was an extended moment in time that I wanted to frame and put on my memory’s mantelpiece. If truth be told I would probably frame the beef breath thing too.

And so when it came time to leave, naturally I took it like a total toddler. I sat in the airport listening to a song that reminded me of him, and a bluesy one at that—in true masochistic fashion—wanting to weep. But didn’t because while my eyes lighten to a stark shade of turquoise when I cry, that is the only part of me that’s remotely fetching. And I wanted to spare my fellow Delta passengers awkward discomfort while I sniveled as if my boyfriend had just left for war, when really we were A-okay, we just couldn’t make out and eat cookies together in his kitchen anymore. As I have a job and he has a job. It’s a whole messy debacle this adulthood nonsense, but alas.

Now here I am, back in the West and it has been a few days for me to come to grips with being minus one cowboy, while I admittedly have continued to be a bit of a baby brat about the whole thing. So when I trudged home through the snow last night, to my quaint and cozy house, I had to pull myself out of the doldrums, where I had been comfortably sitting for some number of hours. It was necessary and it was time.

I walked inside determined to see the loveliness around me and not just fixate on my bluesiness over finally meeting a real solid man only have to him live oh so far from me and my mountains. He was nice, see? He stocked his house full of dark roast coffee and chocolatey snacks because he knew I liked them. And he kissed me even when I had coffee breath… or worse. And well if we’re throwing out stats, he’s also super easy on the eyes, which isn’t hurting anyone.

But my heart isn’t so small that it cannot recognize all the kinds of love. The part of me that craves love—especially of the coffee and chocolate/dog and chicken loving/good kisser/silly and wonderful/delicious cowboy variety—isn’t the only kind of love that means something to me.

So I started doing the dishes. Which, though a chore, always soothes me and I found the task of cleaning plates and organizing a messy kitchen helped un-rattle nerves that were wound tight. Then I scurried about the house tidying coats and papers and adjusting candles and making the house look generally pleasing.

And as I did this I noticed something else. The way the house smelled like pine trees and pecans. How Kia high-fived me as I walked past and smiled at me just because she’s my sister and she’s fond of me. How the Christmas tree lights reflected in the kitchen window and sparkled in the dark. How nice it was to have a home with my sisters, where we shared things and talked over one another when we were excited to make a point and cuddled and cried and did each others laundry.

And all these things are a very specific kind of love too. Suddenly enveloping me I thought, all these seemingly mundane details of life: like how my back room that I share with Kirst is too cold and even though there are at least 5 mismatched comforters on the bed including one with Mickey mouse and one with goldfish, sometimes I am still too cold and so Kia will give up her room, which is the laundry room and is always hot from the dryer, so that I can be warm and cozy. That is love. And Kirstie will pack granola bars for hikes and purposefully give me the one that is not s’mores flavored because she knows I hate s’mores flavored anything unless it is a real s’more. That too is love.

These things add up to love whichever way you do the addition, whether it is a sister or a cowboy, the love is there.

And while being held tight by a cowboy kind of love is sincerely wonderful, I don’t know how many more years I will be able to have Kirst and Kia (though both much littler than me) be the big spoon in a bed full of Disney blankets. So maybe I shouldn’t bemoan so much now. Love is love after all. And there is no absence of that in my life.

He’s the Berries (Part 2)

Musings

All the next day I hoped I would see the pilot again and that he—instead of his friend—would ask me out. I was in the midst of a smallish dinner rush and was buzzing about my tables, checking on how their food tasted and if they needed refills. I had a water jug in hand and was filling up a table’s water glasses when I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. Instantly my stomach clenched and I could feel myself wanting to beam, but I didn’t want to seem overly giddy, so instead I kept my cool—which if you know me at all, is still me being wildly uncool. I kept filling the glasses though one wasn’t water, it was Sprite and as soon as I did it I snapped back to the present and away from the pilot’s smile.

“That was Sprite wasn’t it?” I said to the gentleman staring at his newly destroyed Sprite/water mix. He smiled and nodded. “Ooops. I am so sorry. I will go get you a new Sprite.”

I scurried to the front to seat the pilot and get a new Sprite. Again, he stayed until close. His new buddy Bill joined him again and I frequented their table, pretending it was just because I am an attentive waitress, but really I couldn’t get enough of the pilot or his disarming smile.

I hardly knew what to do with myself, he was such a distraction to me. I was delivering the wrong food and pouring the wrong drinks, but I couldn’t redirect my thoughts to the tasks at hand; they only wanted to be on him.

And so when he got up to leave, I kind of slunk behind my waitress station in nervous anticipation of whether he would just leave and that’d be the end of it or if he did remember that tomorrow was my day off and he really did want to take me to dinner. I had a large glass of ice water I was sipping on and I inched over to the counter at the front of the restaurant. He had paid for his dinner and walked back over to the counter where I was standing.

“So, if you would like to hang out or anything tomorrow on your day off…” he ventured while my brain instantly ceased functioning. “I can give you my information.”

I don’t remember what I said, maybe I just nodded like a loon, sliding a waitress tablet across for him to write down his information. He ripped off the sheet and slid it back to me. And being too dumbfounded for words—because besides his smile, have I mentioned how beautiful he is? How tall? Or dapper? How ‘bout that he looks just like a cowboy—I accidentally knocked over my entire glass of water onto the slip of paper, ice sliding this way and that, while water ran over the sides of the counter.

He laughed and asked if I was alright.

I felt honesty was my only option at this point. “It’s just your smile…” I confessed. “It’s very unsettling.”

“That doesn’t seem like a good thing,” he replied.

“No it is!” I insisted, “But it distracts me… and well…” I motioned to the mess I was trying to mop up with napkins, while shaking out the paper with his name, phone number and email.

“Maybe I should take your information too…” he suggested. I was deeply relieved. I knew I would have contacted him, because I was already too far gone, but I was very nervous and preferred the idea of him getting ahold of me.

I wrote out my information and finished cleaning up my mess.

The next day I shopped in town with my sister trying not to dwell on the impending ‘hangout,’ and if that meant date and if the pilot would take me to dinner or worst-case scenario, if he would even text me at all. When he did text me and even passed my serial killer joke test—where I ask if he’s a serial killer to test his sense of humor, to which he responded, “No I am not a serial killer! What about you? Are you the Bear Lodge brutalizer?”—I had to phone my mother and give her the lowdown: that my life goal of being asked out by a handsome stranger while at work, had finally come true.

I kid that isn’t my life goal, but I will admit, many a romantic comedy had given me the notion that this rather rare happenstance—at least in my case—could one day happen to me.

We settled upon meeting in the lodge gift shop at two and would go into town to visit, King’s Saddlery Museum. I ran into the lodge a minute late feeling breathless and nervous and quickly apologized for being late. He shrugged it off and said he usually ran late too. We walked out to his truck where he held the door open for me.

I chitter-chattered our way down the mountain. I couldn’t seem to stop or take a breath. Maybe it was nerves or maybe he just brought out the extra verbose in me. Country music played in the background and we both agreed that the new pop style of country was utter rubbish.

We arrived at the museum, where we wound our way throughout the Wild West decor, him admiring ropes and the fine craftsmanship of the saddles, me mostly admiring him. The pilot made saddles as a hobby. And he had horses. And although he was a pilot—also as a hobby—and not a cowboy, he had the quality of a cowboy, both in attitude, dress and general demeanor. He even had a sort of cowboy drawl.

Before we got to the checkout, so he could purchase his King’s Saddlery baseball hats, he asked me if I would like to get dinner. I nodded casually, while inside I did fist pumps and victory leaps that would impress the flashiest gay Broadway star.

Dinner was lovely and after we went on a drive around Sheridan and then out into the country where he played me cowboy poetry he had on his Spotify. My heart quieted for a minute, while I let the gruff words sift down inside of me like lazy dust flecks coming in through a sunshiny window. I think in that moment, driving in the country with him, rock ridges to my right, mountains to my left, and cowboy poetry playing on the radio, I fell a little in love with him.

He told me he wished I didn’t have to work the next day as he was going to a canyon he’d always wanted to see, and he would’ve taken me with. I told him I only worked the morning shift until one, if he wanted to wait.

He said he’d wait.

We wound our way back up the mountain where an 80’s party was taking place at the lodge. My outfit was to be your basic 80’s aerobics gear, while my sisters dressed up as Molly Ringwald and Madonna respectively—total knockouts. But upon seeing me in my simple cotton workout gear the pilot beamed and said, “If this is what the 80’s looked like, I want to go back!”

Later after we had a couple drinks and I danced with my sisters to Footloose the pilot walked me home, while holding my hand. Then he pulled me to him in a tight hug while he beamed and told me he would see me the next day.

The next day we drove two hours to the Wind River Canyon. He held my hand and made me laugh until all my mascara washed off. We stopped at the Marriage of the Waters, where I joked that I was going to jump in. We struggled to find anywhere to eat in Thermopolis, but I hardly had an appetite anyway as I was drunk on him.

On the drive home he told me I could sleep and got me a sleeping bag to lay my head on. Before I dozed he told me to pick out songs on his Spotify. I was listening to Righteous Brothers, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, while he pumped gas, and at the part where they belt out, “baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you!” he popped his head in the car and belted out the words to me.

I fell a little more in love.

Then I passed out.

When I awoke we were already winding back up the switchbacks and his hand was in my hair. I sleepily commented that we were almost home. He looked at me, the dashboard light flickering on his five-o-clock shadow and said, “I wish we had a 100 more miles to go.”

And right then I knew, the way you know about a good melon.

He left to go home to Pennsylvania a few days later and I ached thinking it was just to be some perfect mountain fling, but right before leaving, he wrapped a blue silky scarf around my neck that he said was his lucky scarf.

“I want you to have it,” he said.

Why would he give me his lucky scarf if I was just a fling, my brain reasoned?

I went off to Colorado on a weekend trip and he made his way back East.

And that’s the end.

Just kidding! That’s not the end. Barf, that would’ve been horrid.

No, my pilot cowboy continued to text and call. And then send me packages and letters. And generally seem like I was the farthest thing from a mountain dalliance. And well, now that handsome pilot is my handsome beau. In fact I am going to see him in Pennsylvania in two days.

So there you have it. The berries. Total berries up in here.