It’s cold out. Even though I’m in California, my toes are freezing.
My hoodie is wrapped tightly around me, as I listen to the wind blowing against the side of the house. I can see the palm trees in the back yard, swaying gently from side to side. Despite that vision of oasis, this white page looks like snow.
With every key stroke, I’m chilled to the bone.
Michigan- by The Milk Carton Kids plays in the background.
“When she calls, don’t send her my way. When it hurts you’ll know it’s the right thing.” I’ve lied to myself for quite sometime now. See there was a girl… A beautiful, wonderful girl. A girl with a heart of gold, and a soul of pain.
I stumbled upon her accidentally. One of those instances where you just knew that it had to be fate. Coincidence couldn’t be this certain. Our first connection was through music. I loved her taste in artists and lyrics. We stayed up night after night sending each other songs. Listening to them. Relaying our translations. I shared some of my own work with her. She showed me her photography. I would sleep two or three hours at a time, just to wake up in the middle of the night and talk to her. It was sweet…
It was also short.
After just a few weeks of that, I packed up my things and drove to Michigan. That’s what we will call her. Michigan…
I drove the 9 hours through the middle of the night. Living off of Red Bull and a dream, I wound my way through 3 states, and a whirl wind of emotions. I had never been this careless. Never this crazy. I drove and drove until I found myself on a long winding street in the middle of no where. By the time I made it there, I was sitting thirty feet from a lake, overlooking the water from my driver’s seat.
It’s funny. As I write this… My body is warming. I can almost feel the sun beaming in through my window on that early Friday morning. I arrived around 9:30 a.m. I called her. She directed me to her driveway, and I sat there patiently hyperventilating, preparing to meet the girl that…
That what? That I talked to a lot on twitter? That I skyped with on my lunch breaks? The girl that called me at 2:00 a.m from the casino when she had time off from work? She was more than that. I didn’t know what she was exactly… But she was more.
She rounded the corner…
It took my breath. I was there. She was in front of me. Before I knew it, I was hugging her. She was small. She nestled beneath my arms. Rested against my chest. I parked my car, grabbed my bags, and followed her inside.
You have to forgive me. As I’m trying to type this out, I’m reliving every second. Sometimes I pause, just so I can remember the way the clouds looked, or the sunlight filling her room as we both sat quietly on the edge of her bed.
“Is it still weird that I’m here?”
She asked if I wanted to watch a movie. We settled on Crazy Stupid Love. She worked nights at the Casino, so this is normally the time she would begin resting. We laid next to each other in her bed. I remember thinking that I wanted to roll over and cuddle her. Hold her against me. I knew how well she would fit. It was like I had known her for years. She was only new to me in person. Her spirit had been connected to mine for centuries.
It was a slow process getting close to her. Eventually I held her as the movie ended. Her head on my shoulder, she held my t-shirt bundled up in her fist. We fell asleep. Over the next few hours I would get to meet her “Gram”, the sweetest woman you’ve ever met, and her best friend. The girl that has stood by her for longer than I’m even sure of. I was surprised to find that in this little corner of Gun Lake, there was a girl with a life so much like mine. Good people. Good hearts. Good conversation. Just good… Everywhere. And I liked her. Like was an understatement. I felt something. Something different. Watching her was like watching the unfolding of the Kirsten Dunst character in Elizabethtown (only with a northern accent.) It was like falling in love with Melanie Carmichael from Sweet Home Alabama, but only after she breaks up with the guy you know she was never supposed to be with, and then loving her that much more for punching his mom in the face. NO, Michigan never punched anyone in the face. But damn, she did a number on my heart.
We went to a little art festival the following day with her best friend, BFF’s (then) girlfriend, and their son. Watching Michigan push him around, and play with him, I just couldn’t help myself. I let my mind wander. I entertained ideas of a life with her. Too soon? Maybe. I’ve never been one to hold back my feelings. There are sometimes in life when you just know what you want, and right then I knew. I wanted her. I knew that I could be what she needed, and she was everything I wanted. I was overwhelmed with the certainty. Her hand in mine… I wanted it there.
Mind you we hadn’t kissed. We certainly hadn’t slept together. I wanted her as a person, not as an object. It was beautiful.
She told me next that she had a surprise for me. The five of us drove for another fifteen minutes. We wound up on the beach. She wanted to spend sunset with me. It was my last day there, and I couldn’t think of a better ending to the evening.
We laid there. Sun setting. Laughed. Joked. Played with the baby. Took pictures. Laughed about taking pictures. Joked about playing with the baby. I held her against my chest as it went down. As the sun set, so did my chance for her to feel the same. With the darkness came her doubts. During the drive back to her house she basically said that that nothing could happen between us. She wasn’t ready.
I had taken off another day of work, but when I mentioned staying another day, she said she had other plans.
When we climbed into her bed, I was confused. A little hurt. This wasn’t the way I hoped that this would go. This wasn’t the way I wanted things to be. I stayed distant on purpose. I made it a point to sleep on my side of the bed. I didn’t want to come to close to her, just to hurt even more. My arms found her body again through the middle of the night and I held her hopelessly. Clinging to every chance that might have existed.
The next morning I got up. Packed my things, and made my way slowly to my car. She walked me out. Thanked me for coming.
Last minute I leaned in and kissed her.
My head nothing short of exploded. When I caught my breath, I climbed into my car still a little dazed. I backed out, and made it at least ten minutes down the road before I ever sobered up from that beautiful exchange.
I’ll admit it. I think that crying is beautiful, and healthy, and I like to do it. It reminds me that I’m alive. It helps me remember I can feel, and feel is what I did.
She faded out over the next few months, resurfacing only occasionally. I made effort after effort to find that girl I talked to in the beginning for hours on end. I still don’t know where she went. She told me that she wanted to visit me here in California. I was really excited about that, until I realized there is no plane ticket, and she has said a lot of things she never followed through with.
Lying here now. “Michigan” still playing in the background, I wonder, did she feel any of it? Does she know me the way I know her? The answer is, I don’t think so. I don’t think she ever did, nor that she ever will. The truth is… I fell for this girl.
I fell for her heart. I fell for her mind. Her smile. Her eyes. I fell in love with her laugh. I fell in love with her pride and dedication. I let myself love someone that I never that intention for. It’s crazy. I know this. That’s why so many months later, I am still struggling to pick up the pieces. I gave my heart away to someone who was completely uninterested.
That’s my own fault. Really.
It seems I do that.
I sent her this song tonight. It’s been playing all evening on repeat so I thought I would share. We began with lyrics. It was only fair that we ended the same way.
“When she calls, don’t send her my way. When it hurts you’ll know it’s the right thing. Michigan’s in the rearview now. Keep your hands where I can see them. You took the words right out of my mouth, when you knew that I would need them. What am I supposed to do now without you…”
In a way my heart is breaking. Until this point I had let my mind entertain the idea of something eventually working out. Not until tonight did I realize that this really is the end. I loved a girl. I lost a girl. Maybe she was only a figment of my imagination. I can never be sure. Maybe I loved the idea of her, but god she was beautiful… inside and out.
What I do know is that if I reach that point again in the future, I won’t let myself be affected. I won’t hold back just because I’ve been hurt. I won’t let love pass me by just because it didn’t work out in Michigan. I will love deeply, passionately, and positively. I will be certain, and deliberate. I will love her the way I would want to be loved.
If you see a girl in Michigan, beautiful and with a frown… can you ask her to smile for me? She will be the one with a chip on her shoulder, but her hand on her heart, reaching up to the sky for reassurance that there’s more to this life than what she knows.
“Michigan’s in the rear-view now.”…
And now I'll end with a different song. "Maybe It's Time" - The Milk Carton Kids. It's a good one too… Listen at your own risk.
Good night world.