Chris Taylor

May 12, 2000

Canyons

I've never seen the sky quite like this. "Are we going up?"

"Yes, can't you tell by the way the car is struggling?" Stanley says, laughing while she floors my poor struggling four cylinder up the Appalachians.

"It's hard to tell. It's so gradual." Like the feeling I have right now in the pit of my stomach, a gradual gnawing, knowing we'll be back in Kansas in a few days, going our separate ways. I've never seen the sky quite like this. I've never seen it this blue.

"Thanks for coming on this trip. I know it hasn't been easy in light of everything."

"I wouldn't of missed it for the world. More drama. No, I couldn't of missed that. It's a bizarre kind of dramatic swan song, don't you think?"

"Sara, I'm sorry. I'm sorry about all of this. I don't know what else to say and I can't seem to say it enough for you."

"Isn't that my role here? To remind you of how miserable I am and how wrong you are?" I laugh, but the laugh isn't real and neither is her smile.

We planned this trip nearly eight months ago. We hadn't been together long, just a few months. The time when you can't get enough of each other before reality sets in is a short one. Reality meant that she was going to leave. I knew that she would leave because in the rule book on lesbian love, it says clearly that if you bring someone out, they're going to leave you behind. No one ever stays with the first. We idealistically planned this trip, made reservations, took time off work. We vowed we'd stick to those plans even after she told me two weeks before leaving that she'd met someone else, that when we got back, it was over.

She tried to make it clear that our relationship still meant something to her, even though she didn't want it. It didn't make sense to me. Relationships never do. We do what we can to enjoy them while they last. Ultimately, we are alone figuring out what happened. I'll say that I'm not going to do this again and always do. We promised each other that our friendship meant more than our relationship ever had and perhaps on this trip, we could rediscover that friendship. Perhaps we could find a grown up way to end this, an amicable parting. I've never seen that happen.

I will say things like, "How could you? It's awful." She will agree that she is indeed awful, but it will not change anything. It's almost like her agreement is a way for her to do penance, a way for her to say that she can't help what she does. It's a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that allows her to take no responsibility. My shock will only be consumed by my grief.

She snapped my picture in front of the car the day we left, saying that later, I'd look at it and maybe I wouldn't be so angry at her. I smiled, looked into the camera. As she snapped the picture I said, "I hate you." She laughed, and I did too, but at that moment I did hate her. I hated that she could do this to me. I hated that we could spend this wonderful time together, make so many plans and she could toss them away with little effort. We pulled out on the highway and I knew that nothing would be the same when we got back.

The first half of the trip was tolerable, even fun at times. But the undercurrent of sadness and loss was always with me, particularly when we were having fun. We cooled our way into Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. We took each other's pictures with the wax version of the rebel. We left a cigarette on his grave. We camped in Ohio. We camped in New York. We visited the lesbian haven of Ithaca and walked the funky commons, talking nostalgically of the artist's life we'd once planned. We planned too much for it to ever be real, caught up in the melodrama we created.

We slept in separate tents. She taught me about camping and I laughed, saying that as the more experienced lesbian, I should be teaching her about camping. I embellished her with my running social commentary on everything. I talked too much, fearing the silences. I had to say something to keep from reminding her that while she had someone to go back to, I didn't want to go back at all.

I couldn't tell her how much I hated the idea of going back to face the isolation of grief. Every night the fire dwindled to nothing and I crawled into my tent with the dread of facing everything and nothing; the dread of not knowing what to do with my time; the dread of not being able to call her out of the blue with some startling revelation.

************

When I met Stanley she was nervous. It's been a long time since I was that nervous, since I was attracted to someone I shouldn't be, longing for something that seemed so out of reach, so impossible for me. We were two people at a lecture with no one to talk to. I asked her out for coffee and it seemed so easy to discuss. She announced her attempts to come out and seemed thrilled to be able to voice her fear to a "real live lesbian who wasn't afraid to talk about it." I was flattered and wanted to hear her process.

She talked about starting over, quitting her job, quitting her relationship. She was struggling and desperate, unable to find peace with anything. I'd never seen anyone in so much pain and I guess I should have looked at the red flags. I did look, I just wanted to look at her more. I was playing savior, Svengali, constantly assuring her what a wonderful world it could be when you face who you are, when you stop running.

She assured me things would change after she introduced me to her parents as "a friend." I didn't believe her, but I wanted to. She talked about coming out as this beautiful thing and it was for her, but in the privacy of our apartments. We went on for months, hiding out together, making plans, talking about the security of finding each other. I complained about not being validated and things began to change. I didn't want to be together just when we were hiding out at home. I wanted to be together publicly. I wanted our relationship to be valid, real. She asked over and over again, "How did things get so complicated? We've only been together a few months."

"In lesbian years honey, we've already been together three years. Things move fast in the margins. Didn't you know?" But she didn't know, never bargained for relationships with women to be as emotionally tangling as the ones she'd had with men. She never thought it would be hard to leave me. I knew that she thought of me as a stopping place, a way station on the road to more. She didn't expect to feel anything for me and she certainly didn't expect me to love her.

 

******

On the second half of this journey, the road home, I'm tired. I'm wishing there were some way to keep from showing the anger, and the fear of being left alone. I am naked and she sees it every time she looks at me. "Stanley, why couldn't you have told me something? You knew this would happen. I think you planned it."

"Stop asking me that. We've been over it. Something shifted. I don't even know how to explain it myself. I really was there with you, really. It just changed."

"But you haven't told me what it is. I need to know. Why her and not me? How could you?" I don't know why I keep asking. There is no magic that will make her change her mind. Besides, I have the answer if I really look and the answer is quite simple really. It always has been. I always look for permanence where there isn't any. I knew all along she wouldn't stay.

"You must of felt that I'd changed. You must have felt the shift."

"I thought it was just your usual neurosis."

"Thanks." Her eyes are wet, but that's all she'll show me. She's always been better at hiding her emotions. "Do you remember when I told you that you're a good risk taker, that I wouldn't of gotten involved with me?"

"Yeah, I remember. I don't think the risk gets to blame the risk taker for what the risk does."

Maybe if I'd paid more attention this wouldn't have happened. It's my turn to drive and the difficulty of this highway is giving me something to concentrate on. Up and down through the warm green of the northern end of the Appalachians. Stanley has the maps out, looking ahead, warning me of where we need to be. I wish she'd done this before. I wish she'd of told us where we were going.

"OK, so how far is it to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon?"

"About another hour I think."

I didn't know there was a Grand Canyon in Pennsylvania. We found it by accident, looking at AAA books for a different route home. "Who knows when we'll ever get the time to see anything like this again," we say to each other.

We pull into the small town of Smithsboro, immediately seeing a dozen signs pointing the direction to Pennsylvania's grand canyon, "fifty miles long and one thousand feet deep."

We decide to waste no time in checking it out, following all the signs up winding steep hills so thick with trees we can't see what is around the bend. At a dead end we pull into a parking lot marked with signs directing us to the "scenic lookout." Except for one other car, the lot is deserted. We walk through some trees, down a path. There it is. Startling. Incredible. "My God." It's huge. I can't see the end of it. We are so high, the fog drifting in over the canyon is below us.

We walk toward a wooden lookout, a platform overlooking everything. My breath quickens with every step until I feel I'm not breathing at all. Leaning over the railing, I pull in all of it I can. I can barely see the stream at the bottom, but I can hear it. It is the only sound I can hear. Stanley pulls out her camera, clicking away. I need to be alone with this. I can't share it with you now. I walk toward a sign pointing out another lookout a few yards down the path. A couple stand together at the railing, holding hands, taking in the view, talking of where they'll have dinner. As I approach they turn and walk back up the path. Sorry, I spoiled the moment.

So quiet, so empty. I stand as still as I can, time passing around me while I linger in this one moment of beauty. Trying to store it up inside, I look at every section within my vision, recording it for later use. I don't want to go home. I want to stay, taking in the sounds and smells, but it is too much. Coming back up the path I walk past the couple as the woman says, "I'm no longer enamored with this place."

Gee, it's beautiful. That's sad, maybe they're breaking up too. Maybe they're up here trying to renew some interest in each other. Stanley still taking pictures turns to look at me with a strain on her face I haven't seen before. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, let's get out of here." It's hard for me to imagine that she feels remorse for any of this. After all, she's able to do it. She cried the day she told me. She asked me to forgive her for what she was doing, for leaving. I've tried.

I hear the couple talking behind us as we walk back up the path. "There's a bear on the path," the male voice says.

"Huh?"

"There's a bear on the path."

The four of us look up at the same time as an adolescent-sized bear stops, sniffs, stares. We stop, frozen. It takes a step toward us, sniffs again and stares. It is only seconds as it continues across the path. The trees are so thick we can't see how far it has gone. It could be right there, waiting behind a tree. The only way back to the cars is this path. We have to walk past to get out. "If we all walk up together and make a lot of noise, we should be OK. We just don't want to startle it. Get your keys out," Stanley warns in her I-used-to-be-a-forest-ranger voice.

"What if its mother is around?" the woman asks with a shaky voice, near tears.

"That's a problem." Stanley takes charge. "Just make a lot of noise and if it comes out, lay down, don't move. OK?"

"OK."

"I mean it. You can't outrun it. You'll have to let it sniff you."

My heart is pounding as we take small steps toward the parking lot, keys jangling, talking loudly, nervously. I want to run, run like hell.

"Don't run Sara, you hear me. I know how you are about bees, but this bear can kill you."

"OK, OK, I got it."

As we hit the pavement of the parking lot, we all run for the cars at the same time. I drop the keys, fumbling to get them in the lock. We jump into the car, laughing. Stanley puts her head down on the steering wheel and exhaling a deep sigh says, "Oh God."

"Are we still going to camp here?" I laugh. The last thing I want is to be mauled by a bear.

"Let's at least see where the campgrounds are. Maybe they're down a ways and we can find out if bears are a problem. I didn't see any signs. Why didn't they have signs posted?"

The trip to the campground turns out to be only fifty feet beyond the parking lot. Not good. "I don't know Stanley. I don't see any other campers."

"Yeah, I guess this might not be a good idea and you're on your period," she says and smiles. "Maybe the other campers were eaten by bears."

"I bet you'd like that, some giant bear tearing into the tent and carrying me off."

"That's not even funny." She is laughing. "Can't you see me going back with your car and your stuff, explaining to people how you were eaten by a bear? They'd probably think I fed you to it."

Down the mountain we drive through another campground, noticing that all the campers are in RVs. "I'm thinking we need to find a hotel. Do you have enough money left?"

"I don't think we have a choice. I saw a B&B on the way up here. I wonder if we can afford it?"

"Let's check it out anyway. If we can't we can still do Super 8." I don't want to sleep in a hotel room with you. Camping was bad enough, knowing that a short time ago we would of been snuggled in the tent together, talking about the future, talking about how well we fit together. I feel everything slipping away, nothing to go back to. I feel trapped with you, but I don't want to go home either. I don't know what I want.

The B&B is a beautiful white Victorian on a gas-lit street stuck in the past. The lawn is manicured, pansies, roses, white daisies inviting us up the walk. "This doesn't look like anything we can afford Sara."

"We can check anyway." There is no answer when we knock and we decide it might be better to stay within our income and check out the Super 8. Just as we're about to pull away, a woman in a bathing suit comes running out of the house.

"Wait. Sorry, I was in the pool. I thought I heard someone." She runs up to the car. She's a dark woman, looking like she has been in the sun too long. I wonder if she always wears that much jewelry when she swims. A gold cross on a gold chain, an ankh, a gold angel, a half moon, and another gold cross glisten against her very brown skin.

We explain to her that we are passing through, came to see the canyon. The bear story gets a good laugh. "They're all over the place up here," she explains. "They're like family, always in people's back yards and trash cans. I don't think they'd hurt you, but running into a baby without its mama is a little scary. Our rooms are forty dollars a night and that includes breakfast. Just tell me what you like. My name is Diane."

For that price, we don't deliberate and she invites us in. "You're the only guests I have right now. Not much going on lately and I've been doing a little remodeling."

"It's beautiful," Stanley says looking in awe at the carefully placed antiques, polished wood floors and molding.

She directs us up a wide stairway. "Here's your room. This one I call Emma. It reeks of good manners, doesn't it?"

"It's lovely," I say, "Romantic," staring at the double bed. The only bed. This is going to hurt. Stanley glances across the room, her face twitching with worry. She looks over, smiling, trying to tell me it will be OK. We can get through it. We can't. We didn't. Here we are.

"Here's your key. I live in the house next door. If you need anything, just call. The number's on the phone. What do you want for breakfast?"

"Oh, whatever," Stanley smiles. "I'm a vegetarian."

"Well, how about a nice omelette?"

"Yeah, that sounds good." If we survive this night. "You really don't have to fix us anything. We'll probably leave early."

"Oh no. This is an experience. I always want my guests to go away happy, feeling relaxed, well fed." Laughing, she says, "That's what I do. My purpose. What time do you need to get up? I'll have breakfast ready."

"Well, thank you. We should probably be up by seven, you think Sara?"

"Yeah, that's good. I wouldn't mind earlier actually." How about leaving now. How about going back and not doing any of this. "Seven's OK."

"Sleep well ladies," she winks at us.

Stanley closing the door, throws her bag on the bed and turns to look at me as I stand by the door, immovable. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing Stanley. What do you think? We have to sleep in the same bed. I'm miserable. I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm tired. I'm going out for a cigarette."

"OK," she whispers, sitting down on the bed with her back to me.

The night air feels good, chilly. I hope there aren't any bears around. I smoke four cigarettes before Stanley comes out to tell me she's going to sleep. "OK, I'll be up pretty soon."

I smoke four more and decide I need some sleep since we're going to be driving again all day tomorrow. Taking as long as I can in the shower, I try to wash away the sadness, try to feel nothing before I climb into bed with the person I thought I'd be climbing into bed with for a long time.

I attempt to get into bed without waking Stanley, but she's been awake. "Why do you think she winked at us?" Stanley whispers.

"She obviously knows we're dykes. She must be OK with that." The sheets feel so soft and cool after so many nights in the sleeping bag either freezing or burning up. This could of been wonderful.

"Do you think she is? She has all that New Age jewelry on."

"That's not a prerequisite for being a dyke. Maybe she's just spiritual."

"I don't know. Something about her is weird, different, not that that means she's a lesbian either. Doesn't she seem lonely to you? I wonder if she runs all of this by herself? Everything seems too nice, too perfect, like it's not real."

"Yeah, she's probably lonely." We're all lonely Stanley. We're all looking for something and getting within inches of it before the rug gets pulled out. I don't know why I keep doing this. The answers are always the same. "Why? Why did you have to leave me for someone else?"

"I don't want to talk about this again. I'm tired. We've been talking and talking and I can't seem to make you understand, explain anything. I thought if we went through with this trip we could work some stuff out, at least save our friendship."

"What friendship? You never really cared at all, did you? You just used me to help you come out because I was a safe person to be with. Now you want to be friends? I don't get it."

"That's right Sara. I used you and threw you away. I just wanted to get my feet wet, so to speak," she laughs.

"That's not funny."

"Well, you want to take it down to nothing. You want to strip everything we had away. I've tried to explain it to you. We're too alike, too meshed. I never wanted anything long term, never."

"You could of told me that."

"I tried."

"You tried really hard Stanley. You tried really hard when we were making all these plans, plans that meant we were looking into the future. Why would you want to trade that in? What's different about her?"

"I'm scared of this. I can't do this. I can't make these kinds of plans with a woman. She's just different."

"She's just different than me."

"Stop it. I can't talk to you. She doesn't ask anything of me, nothing. I didn't want this to happen. It just did."

"Then why did you do it? You didn't have to do it. You can undo it."

"No, I can't undo it. Not now. Things have changed."

"I wish you would have let me know that. Have you been thinking about a way out of this relationship for a while? She just came along to help you do that? She could of been anyone, anyone available, anyone interested in you."

"I can't do this." She puts her hand over mine. "We need to sleep."

"Don't make me feel like you care now." I can't say anything, can't move, can't think. She rolls over. Is that it? I'm not done. I'm not done taking apart everything we've meant to each other. "Can we go back to the canyon in the morning? I want to look into it again before we go." She doesn't say anything. I can hear her breathing, the breathing of sound, tired sleep. I don't pray, but I ask someone to help me. It's more than Stanley, bigger than Stanley. It's living in a world without permanence, stagnant at the same time.

The light is flooding in across the bed when I wake up. Stanley is snoring, her short blond hair sticking straight up. One blue eye opens, she laughs and kicks me under the covers. Did you forget that this is not the way it is? Did you forget that this is all there is of us? When we get back you'll be moving on. Did you forget that?

"I don't want to get up," she sighs.

"Me neither. I'd just like to stay here."

"I'm not looking forward to driving all day either."

"I smell coffee, what time is it?"

"Oh shit, it's eight." She puts her hands over her face and groans.

"You take a shower first. You got more sleep."

She playfully kicks me again and rolls out of bed. "We're going to have to drive hard today. What makes you think I got more sleep?" She pulls on one of the robes provided for guests and walks out of the room.

I throw a sweatshirt on over my T-shirt, pull my shoes on and go down to the smell of coffee. One of the reliefs about being on the road is not having to keep up a particular appearance for anyone. Diane appears from the kitchen, cup in hand. "Here you go. There's cream and sugar on the table. Did you sleep well?"

I lie. "Oh yeah, it was great. I wish we could just stay here a few days."

"Yes, this is a wonderful place. I could never leave it. I think some people think it's really small town, but I love it here."

"It's nice. I'm going to go out for a cigarette, sorry we got up so late."

"No worries, that's my job. Just let me know when you're ready to eat."

The morning air is chilly. It's hard to imagine it could be this cool in June. It's probably over a hundred in Kansas. Everything is so perfect here. Now I know why people go to B&Bs. Any other time the pampering would be nice. Today it's only confusing and bittersweet. Stanley comes out onto the porch, dressed, looking relaxed and content. "Isn't this wonderful," she smiles taking a deep breath.

"Yes, it's beautiful. I better get in the shower."

When I come down for breakfast, Stanley is sitting at the dining room table looking out the window. Our bags are sitting by the front door, ready to get out of here. Our hostess is humming in the kitchen. The table is set with beautiful floral china. The crystal is filled with juices. Fresh flowers are everywhere. "I don't think I've ever been treated this good," Stanley says as Diane comes out of the kitchen with muffins and more coffee.

"Thank you. Like I said, that's my job. It's my job to provide this experience. Things have been a little slow. I don't get to do this often enough. Would you like some music?"

"Sure."

kd lang comes crooning out of the speakers as Diane walks back to the kitchen. Stanley smiles, leans over to me and whispers, "I think she's trying to bond with us, tell us something."

"I agree," I laugh. "She's coming out to us. This is too funny. Wouldn't you know we'd find the only lesbian B&B in town."

"It's weird, surreal."

Diane comes back in with the omelettes, picturesque. There are fresh flowers, pansies on the plate. "Did you know that pansies are edible? Have you ever eaten one?"

"No," we say in unison.

"Try them. There's something really wonderful about putting the soft pedals in your mouth and they're quite tasty."

She buzzes back to the kitchen, leaving us with our omelettes covered with pansies. I put one in my mouth, feeling the deep blue pedals soft against my tongue. I can't bring myself to chew it. I just let it sit there for a while. Can I taste its richness? Can I taste its color? Diane comes back and I begin to chew. There really isn't a flavor, just softness. "How is it?" she smiles.

"Oh, it's wonderful. How's yours Stanley?"

"Wow, it's weird, eating flowers. Are you going to sit down with us for a while Diane?"

She pulls out the chair. "Just for a minute. So, how long have you two known each other?"

"Well," Stanley grins, knowing what she means. How long have we been together? "We've been friends for a couple of years."

That wasn't the question Stanley. I've had three cups of coffee but I pour another. The rich cream dilutes the blackness. I am hyper awake, every sensation a painful and real one. Diane addresses her next question to me. "I don't usually get people here from Kansas. That's a long drive. What made you decide to come here?"

"We just found it in the AAA book, thought it would be a nice thing to see before going back home. It's beautiful here. Have you always lived here?"

"I grew up here. My husband and I bought this house and my best friend and I turned it into what it is. It's a lot of work, but I love it."

Stanley announces that she needs to call her mother before we leave, report in that we are safe and on our way home. We help Diane take the dishes back into the kitchen and Stanley goes off to use the phone. Diane turns to me with tears in her eyes. "Ya know, seeing you two together is wonderful."

I don't know what to say. "Well, we..." I can't say anything.

"When my best friend and I started this place, we were both married. We've known each other for a long time. Things between us just, you know. I got a divorce. She couldn't handle it, couldn't handle anything. When her husband got offered a job in Florida, she went with him. I miss her so much. I've never really loved anyone like that. We made this place together."

"I'm sorry. It's tough. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry."

"It's amazing what people will do to protect themselves. This is a small town. People talk, people know everyone. I've been living with that for a while."

Lesbians can talk without saying anything about who they are. I've always hated that. Just say it. Just tell me who you are. Stanley can't be in a long-term relationship with me because I'm a woman, but she can leave me for another woman under the illusion that if she doesn't commit to anyone, it's not really true. Tell me who you are. Tell me that you are sad because nothing is permanent, or real, or sure. Love is a reality that we create, and destroy without ever checking that out with the other person. Love is real and not real, a hyper-aware state of self-destruction and awakening at the same time. But love is really all we have to go on. I deconstruct everything and can't seem to get past love.

Diane wipes her eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lay all that on you. I just, well the two of you here remind me of then. It reminds me of Susan. I'm sorry."

"It's OK." Everything makes a little more sense now.

Stanley comes bounding down the stairs smiling. She stops, knowing that something has occurred. "I guess we better get ready to go."

"Gee, I wish you two could stay a couple more days. You've been wonderful guests. Are you sure you have to get on the road today? There's a lot to see here."

"Unfortunately, we have two days to get back and it's quite a drive. I wish we could stay. Sara, I put your toothbrush and stuff in your bag. You left it in the bathroom."

"Thanks."

"Maybe you can come stay with us again. I'd love it."

"Yeah, it's really nice here." Not likely I'll be back. "I'm going to run upstairs and make sure we didn't leave anything." The stairs seem unusually steep on the way up. I only want to look at this room one more time. I pull my camera out and snap a picture of the room, the bed squarely in the middle of the frame. I feel guilty about it, but I want something to remind me of this, to keep the pain right where it belongs. And I want to know a time when I will open my photo album and look at this picture and it won't hurt so much. It will just be another experience in a vast collection of experiences, good and bad. I want there to be a time when I'll remember what it felt like to hold Stanley, to feel her against me, to see her smiling so warm and so moving. I want to remember that time without the bitterness of the loss, without the grief. I want desperately to remember her with the warmth I felt so strongly the first time she spent the night, when we couldn't let go of each other.

Downstairs Stanley is taking a picture of Diane. She is sitting at the large mahogany dining room table, surrounded by her beautiful flowers and crystal. Everything in the room looks chosen particularly for its affect of warmth and easiness. I feel like I know Diane. There are people like Diane and I everywhere, people who even in the midst of our suffering realize that there is a kind of beauty in that suffering, a kind of beauty in our grief that keeps going. We do our best to arrange things so that when they ultimately fail, we'll be surrounded by that beauty, protecting and carrying us through. We know that there will always be that suffering, but we also know there will always be moments of joy that make the pain worth something.

My experience is not particularly unique, and I will more than likely have this experience again, and again. I wonder if this is part of the joy, necessary for the joy. I think of Tennyson and words so cheesily used now, better to have loved and lost... I wonder if it's better, really. I suppose it has to be. I laugh to myself when I think of how much love I felt for Stanley even still an hour ago. That love moves, flows like water, changes like wind. A year from now I will wonder why I was so sad. Couldn't I see the inevitable? Why did I try to fix things? Why did I want permanence where there isn't any?

I miss my house. I miss my cats. I miss the warmth of the sun coming in, touching my plants and my face as I lay on the big overstuffed sofa reading a good novel. I miss my flowers and I want to go home where I'm safe, where I can start over. We can't stay on the road forever. We can't postpone this.

It takes a while to pack the car back up. Stanley meticulously arranges all the camping gear so we can set up quickly when we get to the next stop. Diane comes outside and watches us. "Don't leave yet," she runs back in the house.

"What were you talking about?" Stanley asks.

"I'll tell you later. It's a long story and a sad one."

Diane comes back out with a bag. "You can take the rest of the muffins with you. Then you'll have snacks on the road."

"Wow, thanks. That's really nice of you."

We get in the car, both of us sitting there while Diane stands by the door watching. She envies us. She wishes she were us, taking a trip together, being together. We are a sad reminder of what she longs to have, what she lost. We wave and back out.

Stanley takes a deep breath. "She didn't want us to leave."

"She's probably the only lesbian in this town, at least the only one anyone knows about."

"So what did you two talk about while I was on the phone? Did you tell her that I was a complete bitch and was leaving you for another woman? Did you tell her how heartless and cruel I am, how thoughtless and selfish?"

"You said it, I didn't. No, she told me about her love affair with her best friend and the lover's inability to accept herself in love with another woman."

"Oh my. Heavy stuff."

"Yeah. I didn't tell her anything about us. I just let her believe we were a happy couple taking a vacation together. For a moment, I believed it myself and it felt kind of nice, but not real. Do you want to see the canyon again before we leave?"

"I don't know. Do you think the bears are out?"

"Sitting there salivating, waiting for us." I enjoy so much about you Stanley and I'm really going to miss you.

"Shut up. Let's go up."

Standing from the lookout I can't believe this place isn't crawling with people. The fog has lifted and I can see all the way down to the stream. Stanley is off taking pictures. I can make peace with this, with her. It's me left behind to figure it all out. I always figure it all out. I am the unsympathetic character, a character trying to make everything around me perfect, like Diane. All of the crying we did together means nothing now. All of the hope I had that we would somehow get through this means nothing and everything at the same time. We'll get home, I'll drop her off and she'll say, "Talk to you later." But I know she won't. I know we won't talk again. It's too hard, too painful. I will get home and stay up nights trying to figure out what happened when it really doesn't matter. I'm good at figuring things out. We just go on.

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