The Road

Something’s been plaguing me for the past month. It has not been intermittent or fleeting. And it’s been haunting me, with progression, throughout my waking hours, quietly rapping on the windows, tugging gently on my sleeve, and softly beckoning my attention. I turned my head from it. Turned my back. Tried not to listen, not to look. But it’s only grown louder and more frightening, banging in my ears and echoing in my head like a scream into a canyon.

And yesterday, I could ignore it no longer. The pot boiled over.


Memories have been accosting me, sliding slyly over me like moonlit shadows, strangling my breath and infecting my mind, transporting me far from the here and the now. All month. Mostly in the car.

And there have been tears. Man, have there been tears.

Funny thing is, they’re all good memories.

Scenes flash before me – a highlight reel, if you will – from over fifteen years ago, at the impetus of a song, a scent, a single word. And I go silent, shake my head, get lost in my thoughts.

The first few riffs of Everything Zen jar me immediately back to walking, on what we called The Boulevard, a long, flat path for bikers, families, and pets. Walking, walking, walking, at age sixteen, in racing-striped pants and white and navy Nikes, daydreaming desperately about getting married, welcoming my first child, having the freedom to just get out, the urgent fire of hope glowing white-hot inside me.

And then there was my first love. My first love, without whom I would not be the person I am today, the person who opened my eyes to, well, mainly everything, the person who, to this day, made the deepest, most easily discernible impression on my heart.

We spent four years together. Almost an eternity. But the early memories fill my throat (and eyes) the most quickly, I would imagine, due to the love chemicals, adrenaline, and, well, vodka. And I will never forget himEver.

He drove a Cougar. And he smoked Newports. And a significant death in his family led to his dropping out of high school immediately before graduation. When we met, I couldn’t stand him. I couldn’t get away from him quickly enough. I didn’t like the way he looked, the way he talked, his car, cigarettes, or his cockiness. He repulsed me.

And just like most dime-a-dozen love stories, we fell. Hard.

He was “dangerous”, but not to the point of real harm. He was cocky, but not to a point of distaste. He was free. He pushed limits. He drove too fast, he was self-indulgent, and he emerged from every situation better off than when he entered. His emotions ran deep. And he expressed them. He was everything I wasn’t aware I was inside. And he taught me how to love. He became beautiful to me.

We used to take drives on warm summer nights with the windows down, Rage Against the Machine cutting swiftly through the silence. He drove fast, clinging precariously to the curves of the back roads. He plucked at each straining, tired finger, helping me let go of the entire world onto which I was so vainly and helplessly hanging. He showed me what it felt like to be alive. I can still see the full moon out his window, feel the warm, humid wind in my hair, my heartbeat accelerating with each turn, the intoxication of a million blooming roses, the scent of his hair.

I think about those drives often.

And then, just like that, there I am, in jeans that were clearly too tight, shoes that were too high, and my shirt unbuttoned a bit too far, at the eighteen-plus warehouse-turned-nightclub, strobe lights and manufactured fog assaulting my senses, the bass lines of The Beastie Boys pounding straight through me, laughing loudly with friends, drinking Kahlua Sombreros. And he was there. He was always there. Guiding. Teaching. Protecting. 

These few memories, among so many others, are seared so deeply in my mind, I’ll don’t think I will ever forget. And the strength of our bond, I hope never to forget, either. And who says I have to?

We didn’t have a song. We had all of them. We didn’t have a restaurant. They were all ours, too. But we weren’t long for this world. We weren’t meant to be. I firmly believe, though, he was placed in my path to teach me more lessons than I would have learned in a lifetime, and for that, there’s no measure of gratitude I can express.

I smile a silent smile whenever I hear Meet Virginia by Train. In our conversations that went on, literally, for years after we ended our relationship, he confided that was his song for me. I can only hope that he does the same.

My tears? They fall now because I know I’ll never make memories this strong again. Neither the timing nor the chemistry will ever be the same. Besides, it’s hard to dream when living with the constant preoccupation of keeping my children safe, fed, and happy, wondering if the hornet spray we bought will be harmful to them, paying the bills, wiping the noses, and being the oil to the gears of my family.

So, I guess I’m holding onto the world again, with both hands, keeping it from bouncing over my children and my husband, keeping its immeasurable weight from rolling over me. But at least I tasted the sweet nectar of complete freedom. And was fortunate enough to experience unbridled love.

I may shed a few more tears before this is through. Or many more over the next several years. Though bittersweet, the experience helped to make me whole, something I feared I’d never be. And because I am whole, I possess the tools to raise my children as such. And just feeling that, knowing that, may always have the power bring me to my knees.

24 Comments Add yours

  1. Tricia says:

    Thank you for this. All to often we discount our memories, but they truly make us who we are. Someday I’ll learn how to look back while still moving forward.


    1. And thanks for giving me the right words. I was struggling.


  2. Robbie says:

    I thought i was the only one who cried in the car when slammed with memories. Though it wasn’t meant to be he clearly was meant to leave his mark on you.


    1. It comes and goes. Sometimes, it’s like ‘Eh,’ and sometimes it’s really strong. Sometimes I get caught in a moment, and then it ends, and I’m like, “What was I thinking!?!” But you know how it goes. Everything happens for a reason.


  3. I love the honesty here. I think many of us can relate, although not everyone would so openly admit to it.

    Everything Zen and Meet Virginia are songs I associate with my now-husband.

    But before him there were lessons learned, pains faced, thrills embraced that I never will forget.

    Thanks for the remembering…


  4. nailingjellotoatree says:

    So sweet. Almost makes me wish I had dated someone before my husband. But I’m happy too that all my memories have been made and kept with this one.


    1. Well, I haven’t written about the end of the relationship haha. If I did, you’d be happy just the way things are!


  5. Losing your freedom is pretty interesting. I still have days I forget I had a life before kids and my husband. True, my ex was what my friends and I call a ‘Pig Vomit’ so I do NOT have fond memories- but I was free nonetheless. I’m glad that you can look back upon this fondly!


    1. Let’s not forget…this is after having being broken up since 2000, and having spoken only very sparsely since 2006. Let’s just say I haven’t written about cutting all (okay, most) of our pictures up into little bits yet. Distance does make the heart grow fonder. ;-)


  6. Such a good post. I had a relationship similar to the one you wrote about, too. Sometimes the memories of it sweep me away when I hear a particular song or smell the sunshine in early spring. Good memories.


    1. Yes. These are the good ones. ;-)


  7. Lauren Rap says:

    Great post, Stephanie!


  8. Tisha says:

    Everything Zen (the whole album, really) brings back memories of my first real boyfriend, my first love. Neither of us wanted our relationship to end the way that it did, but that’s life. Even though it’s been over 12 years since we’ve been in contact, I’m still thankful for the lessons I learned–how to persevere in the face of adversity, how to not care all the time what others think, and how to cope with the realization that some things just aren’t meant to be.


    1. That was one of my biggest lessons. I had the rest of my life planned out, and needed to learn how to adjust to changing circumstances.


  9. I know those hauntingly sweet memories well. The night drives, the summer, the freedom of youth. And I now know the strength of keeping a family glued together, of pouring myself into the love of family so hard and so thoroughly that there’s nothing left over- no freedom to seek. I get it. Good post. Thank you for that.


    1. And thank you for relating to it. That helps me a whole lot!


  10. muddledmom says:

    Oh I so rarely allow myself to go there. That girl was another person some days. Great post.


    1. Thanks. Oh, I’m not her anymore, either! But sometimes it does the heart good to look back.


  11. Beautiful. I married my first love, and we’re still together. But I miss that time when we were brand new and had no children and were drunk on each other all the time. Our love is comfortable, now. And in some ways that’s sad. Thanks for sharing this with us.


    1. It’s not sad, just different (that’s what I tell myself, anyway!). Thanks for reading.


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