Sunday, October 2, 2011

Victory Lap

A year and some change ago, Laura, Keith and I sat on the stoop outside a coffee shop down the street from our old office; a bit dazed on an early afternoon. A significant portion of the newsroom staff had been laid off that morning. There was a break in the conversation and the silence bred some thoughts so I let my head drop a bit and the muscles in my face tightened. "Now you're crying?", asked Laura in a protective way as if it was a last straw of some sort. The changes in the lives of my friends seemed to rumble that also in my life, things weren't going to be the same anymore.

Whenever fall approaches and I turn a year older, I panic as I think of the previous trifecta of seasons. Looking over my shoulder I can't believe how packed to the brim it was. So many things seen and felt. Now a year later I feel the same. Each year seems to supersede the previous. The job that I wanted more than anything since moving to Salt Lake and my outlook on that career slowly changed. The Cricket got a new job and plowed forward. She was headed for breaking waves and I was treading water, trying to decide what I was after. Somehow through my haze, we found enough clarity to decide to marry at the end of the summer. Two months later I was driving back from a friends house when she called saying I got a letter from some school I had applied to while trying to figure out my next step. It "fell open" while taking it out of the mailbox. She asked if she could read it to me over the phone. I think she had a feeling, as the words, "sorry try again" don't usually necessitate a giant envelope. The next six months were filled with plotting and discussing if it would be right to cut ties and move to Berlin. It felt barely more right than not right at first, and as if we were under a yellow light we sped forward through the intersection of our decision. The marriage came, I left the paper and we packed up the only home that was ever ours.

Before leaving we spent an evening with my family at my parents house up north. We ate familiar food from my mothers kitchen on the patio as my nephews and niece wrestled around on the grass and the family traded recent updates on life, kids, bullies at school and health. I thought of all the meals we've had out back. Elements of the family have moved and returned, and as I realized it was my turn to leave, tiny details taken for granted became more valuable. It was dark outside when we hugged goodbye. I watched my parents walk up the steps to the back of the house and tried to remember every memory at that door I could.

On the way out of town, I pointed to the top of a building in the center of town and said, "We used to sneak up there at night in high school, you wanna go?." I didn't want to, and didn't realize it until she promptly and decidedly said, "Yeah." During the distance between twisting the key to turn the car off and pulling it into park, I realized I was 10 years older. 10 years worth of second guessing and worry on how things were going to turn out. We climbed up a railing, onto a landing and pigeons flew violently out of a crawl space making our hearts and heels jump. "Up that?" she asked as she looked at a fire escape ladder rising two more stories. We went up and as I was about 3/4th's of the way up I looked back down. I looked back down 10 years and panicked. We came back down and tried to not to mention the feeling of defeat. I was embarrassed. I think she was surprised I didn't go up. Maybe it was the heavy heart of leaving home. Maybe it was the thick, strange and sad nostalgia of your youth's moments invisibly projected on street corners and roof tops as you drive through your high school home. Before jumping down from the landing which was really a smaller buildings rooftop, she took my arm and said, "Let's sit here for awhile." Then asked how I was feeling.

It was one of those moments where you're so far in each others head, you only need a handful of sentences to talk about everything. Feeling older, family, leaving home, etc. After a short silence she said, "Micha, we gotta go up there." I knew she was right, and we scrambled up the ladder to the quiet black space that I hadn't been to since 18.

We'd been married a month, the wedding had gone so fast. It had been a month of noticing the ring on my finger, and hearing myself say, "my wife" when talking to others. It didn't seem real until then, smiling in the soft wind and near silence above a sleepy street. After a few minutes, we climbed down and the drive home became our victory lap for the fullest year.


BWJones said...

Inspiring man... Simply inspiring.

SGW said...

I agree, very much. Mike, you guys will be so deeply missed it's hard to say.
As a friend you're the best, as a photographer, stellar and as a husband you will be great. Please don't be a stranger keep us up on what's going on.

Later SGW

Ariana Torrey said...

Your words are so compelling.

I hope you find the things that make you happy, wherever you go. You are talented and thoughtful, which are two traits that will take you far.

Thanks for sharing this with us.