April 24, 1999. Somewhere in an airplane hangar. I danced all night, got stuck in the mud and found waterfalls up Ute Pass.
No one knew it rained all night. Airplane hangars don’t have windows. Pounding rain drowned by speakers and feet on floor. Psychedelics, angel wings, bodies covered in glitter. Platform shoes. Rainbows. Candy kids. Breakdancers. House dancing in shell top shoes. Rolled out. Vicks Vapor Rub.
People died sometimes. I never saw it. We heard. Almost every time — somebody said somebody died. Incomprehensible then. We went still.
Shoes stuck, tow trucks, deep mud. Pushing, engine revving. Expansive morning sky.
It was the only time my dad found me after days gone. He worried because of the Columbine shooting. I missed most of school that day. Not there, my school. Smoked pot and came back for english class. The one with the teacher who didn’t like me much. Never found the chance to notice how I might be. I remember the yellow coat I was wearing.
How it must feel for teachers. The ones that were there. And the ones that were not. My dad, the teacher. It made him think of the things teenagers get into. The things they get out of. And where I fit.
“I just wanted to make sure you are safe.”
“It’s been a few days since I’ve heard from you.”
“I know you said you were going to that rave.”
“Did I ever tell you about my Deep Purple ear?”
“It’s my left one. I can’t hear out of it anymore.”
“We used to have 3 day music festivals too.”
“After the Columbine shooting this week.”
“I know that was somewhere else.”
“But, I started worrying that something happened to you.”
“I don’t know, I had a bad feeling.”
“I love you, honey.”
It’s been almost 18 years since that week. The April snow rain.
We danced all night crazed in rhythmic foot stomps. Everybody is dirty after. Craving a shower and blowing black boogers.
I remember the black boogers the most.
What did it come from? Was it the smoke? The stomp? The dirt? The sweat dripping off the ceiling and walls? The human condensation? It wasn’t my favorite. Never enough to stop me. Most things are not enough.
Driving up Ute Pass after April snow. Waterfalls bursting from granite, sandstone, the fountain formation. Unusual ground saturation. It’s only occurred twice in living memory. I will never forget water gushing from the ground and out the bedrock. We don’t see that in the desert.
Someone was 18. That’s how we rented the hotel and slept all day to make up for the all night before. But first, we showered. All of the teenagers showered with their boyfriends and girlfriends.
When it was our turn — I just went with it even though it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted all the heat and water to myself. Not to share. The tub was dirty by now. Hair, not my hair, everywhere. Mud. Blackened noses. Him. Wanted to wash it all off.
You ask why it is I am so ridged now and how I was so free then.
“Don’t open the windows. We aren’t supposed to open them for hours after getting a detail.”
I couldn’t help myself. The impulse to prove it opens. The pull to see the sudden and temporary springs erupting from the rockside without window was too great.
He shamed me immediately. Shook his head.
“Of course you would open the windows when he just said not to.”
I can still feel his eyes.
Later, my husband and I took the same Pass. But this time I worried about the flash flooding. Not the fractured rocks falling from spring water saturation after dancing all night. After getting stuck in the mud. After showering in the hotel. After opening the window in the newly detailed car.
After the fire came. We got stuck in the mountains visiting Cloud City. Ate hot wings at the bar that served me alcohol when I was a kid.
I watch the clouds and refresh the weather app. Picked out the mile markers that were safe, and the ones that were not, so I could watch. Predict.
What if we got stuck in the charred black water flash floods? Would I be able to help myself from rolling down the window to see Ute Pass this way? Would I have the will to resist opening the door. Stepping my body into the force to feel what it is like to touch water that hardly rushed before?
Every time I am cliffside. I say I am afraid of heights. This description is the easiest. Less crazy more relatable. Really, I don’t trust my body. It is weaker than my mind. The stakes are too high mountainside. I could die.
Windows down in his blue, oversized tire, Toyota Tacoma that he had to have. I feel car sick. My body can’t stand losing control in the carved twists formed by the fountain creek. Mountain runoff.
They say follow the rivers down when you are lost. But, we — my husband, step-daughter and I — are following the river up.
Hyperventilation is when you exhale more than you inhale. Loss of carbon dioxide. Blood vessels shrink.
My muscles sized, contracted. Starved for air. I tried to pull in for balance. Symmetry. Smile sagging. Maybe it’s a stoke. Arms locked against my chest, t-rex wrists. Windows down.
“It’s okay Koy, don’t worry about me, baby.”
Except I’m not okay. I am seizing and my whole body is wreathing in the uncontrollable. This is what it does when I shower with another even though I want the warm water to myself. When the waterfalls pour and the window stands between us, when the flooding comes and the cliffsides.
Her therapist later tells us:
“It’s like when a tornado comes.”
“She can see that somethings happened.”
“There are cars in the trees and the roof is gone.”
“But her adults are telling her it’s okay and nothing is wrong.”
“So she stops believing herself.”
I am in the hospital from panic. My body is a liar. A betrayer. I stop believing in myself.
“Are you under any stress?”
“You were panicking.”
“Your body will reset itself by passing you out so you can return to normal breathing.”
“Its how your body saves you from your mind.”
“It sucks in all the blood from your muscles to bring it to your brain.”
I tell him I’m not stressed out. Until I hear myself listing the duties. The jobs. The work. The projects. The graduate school.
Maybe if I get straight A’s I will be able to control the impulse to roll the windows down. To lunge, to be waterfall, the space between the rock and the ground. The shower with him. The truck that sickens me every time. The marriage.
How can I explain to her what love is like when it is over?
And how she doesn’t belong to me the way no human being can ever belong to anyone else ever.
But she belongs more than the Tacoma, the sounds, the sky and the man who is still her’s but no longer mine.
How she is like a sudden April waterfall bursting through the desert mountain bedrock. And all night dance parties in my teens. The freedom of recognizing the tornado inside your body is as real as the car in the tree.
And did I ever tell you about my Deep Purple ear? Except it was my Sandra Collins ear.
Somewhere in a Colorado airplane hangar 18 years ago.
You will be a teen in just a month.
There are things they get into and things they get out of.
I want to know where you land.
And, I love you. Honey.
Even though you are not mine.
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