It’s almost 4am as I’m beginning to write this. A lot of these stories have never made it out of me until now but as I sit next to my sleeping daughter in our living room watching her breath, I find myself crying. I’m not crying because of what happened in all these stories, I’m crying because of how long I’ve held in the shame around them, as well as thinking about all the different versions of me that thought what I was experiencing was love, and that’s what I deserved to have.
In sharing these stories it’s my hope that some girl or woman out there, and hopefully someday my daughter, will read these and know that love can be so much more than what I put myself through, and to either wait for that love, or pursue having it with all her heart. But then again, I think of all the wisdom & strength I’ve gained from going through these experiences, and I wonder what sort of trials she’ll need to grow through to become the woman she’s meant to be. And part of me doesn’t want to get in the way of her journey, because I’m thankful my parents let me have mine. So with that, here are a few stories about what I did for love and connection, and yes they’re not in chronological order, and no this isn’t everything, of course I have more, but for brevity, I’ve chosen to share these.
I lied. About big stuff. I met Carl in the parking lot of Park City Mountain Ski resort in March of 1994. I was 16 and a sophomore in high school and he was 23 and exploring life as a ski bum after college. I’d been dumped just days before at Pizza Hut by my best friend John, and I’d found out our breakup was final and not another lengthy meandering sad conversation when I heard he’d asked a cheerleader to prom. She was a freshman, had perfect skin and gorgeous tan long legs, I hated her. I thought John and I going to prom was a sure thing, even when we were talking about going back to being just friends the week before. So there I was just a few weeks before prom, at a new school, freshly single and totally heart broken. I just wanted to just disappear. A perfect time for a Carl to enter. I worked at a t shirt shop at the ski resort on the weekends and though it wasn’t a workday, I was there because I needed to pick up and deposit my paycheck. It was very snowy and as I struggled to walk through the icy parking lot, I heard a voice close by say, “do you need some help pretty lady?” And I felt myself freeze, not because of the weather, but from the compliment. It came at a time I didn’t feel very pretty in leu of just getting dumped. I gratefully looked up and saw a gloved hand attached to a handsome gentleman in uniform reaching out to assist me through the ice, and I took his glove and clung to him for dear life. We walked together through the remainder of the parking lot and I almost didn’t realize that I was still holding onto him when the ice was gone and we’d reached the curb. I felt myself blushing even though my cheeks were cold, and I thanked him and continued on my way. It didn’t take me long to get my paycheck, but I wandered around the resort a little feeling a little shy about the likelihood of seeing him again on my way back to my car. But I needed to get to the bank before it closed, so I returned to the icy scene quietly hoping I’d see my rescuer again. I could see my Jeep far in the distance, also all the ice still between us, but no gloved young man in sight, so I stepped off the curb onto the ice and began to carefully walk. Then the completely unexpected happened. I was scooped up into the arms of the handsome man in uniform and he carried me in the direction of my Jeep. “Which car is yours?” He asked “The black Jeep towards the end.” And I felt my grin through my words. “My name is Carl, what’s yours?” I felt an odd sensation rumble through my chest, and out of my mouth came, “my name is Katie.” Wait what? No it isn’t, why did I say that? (Said my inner voice). But correcting myself when it comes to my name is not something you normally do, because you should know your name, so in order to not feel completely stupid and embarrassed I just went with it. And 15 minutes later, we are still talking and Carl is asking me if I want to go grab a beer sometime, and I’m giving him my home phone number telling him yes and to call me later. Please note I’m not telling him I’m a sophomore in high school, I'm not telling him that I live with my parents and I’m not telling him I'm nowhere near being 21 yet. I loved and needed the attention. Now remember, I'd given him my land line. because this was 1994 so the closest thing I’d seen to a cell phone was the one my dad had that snapped closed and had a long cord that he plugged into the cigarette lighter of his car. So as I drove home I realized I’d have to answer every phone call tonight so he didn’t ask for Katie if my parents answered and be told he's got the wrong number.
Carl called, Carl and I hung out, and I fell hard and fast for him. When he invited me on a trip with his friend, and suggested I bring a friend, and it sounded like a wonderful plan. I brought my friend in on my Katie lie, and we both told our parents a lie about going on a trip with our church group (I didn't even have a church group), and it worked. The only way we'd get caught we said, is if we ended up in the hospital.
The rest of this story is for another time, as my life changed that day we left for a roadtrip with two older guys and not our church group. But I imagine it was a confusing time when both Carl and my parents were at the foot of my hospital bed while I was in a coma, wondering why they were all looking at the same person and saying different names, and the guys knowing nothing about a church group. Katie died in a car accident, and I’ve been Harriet ever since. Eventually in these daily stories I’ll share what happened to Katie on April 2, 1994 and what happened to Harriet when she came back to life. I'll come back and link it here after I write it. Moved in on a whim I’m not entirely sure If I’ve even told my husband this story, because I’m so embarrassed I let it happen. The only ones who really knew Aaron existed and kind of what happened were my parents, my sister and her husband, because they met Aaron at Easter brunch, and they were all staring at the tattoos emerging from his long sleeved shirt and looking at each other. But before I go into this story I will share that I got a fb message from Aaron 10 years after this happened apologizing, so that felt awesome. I met Aaron in January 2002 in the check-out line of the Whole Foods (then Wild Oats) in Salt Lake City at 700 east and 400 south. I recognized him immediately when I saw him because I’d seen him driving around town a few times in his white truck and it seemed we had similar morning rituals, one of which included me getting a morning muffin before school and a gluten free chocolate chip cookie after lunch at Wild Oats. He’d be having his morning coffee up in the lounge that overlooked the whole store and because that’s also where the bathrooms were, I’d see him and smile as I walked by. Aaron was short (5’6 maybe), a little stalky, had blue eyes and dark blond hair that was cut close to his head. He also had a full sleeve of tattoos on both arms, something I’d only seen men in biker gangs have, not a young professional-looking handsome male, so to me he was fascinating and noticeable. He’d noticed me as well, hence our conversation in the check-out line began. At that point in my life I was almost through massage school in downtown Salt Lake City and was renting a room nearby from a friend of a friend named Dena, who was a retired Olympic Biathlon athlete, a sport that always seemed so strange to me. It was cross country skiing and then shooting a rifle. I didn’t see the connection between the two, but it was a sport that made it to the Olympics and my roommate had taken a gold medal a few years back. It was an exciting and busy time to be in Salt Lake City because the 2002 winter Olympics were in town and there were events and ceremonies scattered all over the city, so you always needed to add 20-30 min to your normal commute time or errand. And that included check-out times at the store. Sometimes the check-out lines dipped all the way back into the shopping aisles and you could feel the restlessness of everyone in line. So that meant Aaron and I had 20 minutes of standing shoulder to shoulder to explore our connection. Aaron told me he was a construction site manager during the day and bouncer at night at a bar in Salt Lake City I’d never heard of called Liquid Joe's. He lived alone about 15 minutes south, an area I rarely went to, and when he asked if I’d ever like to go to dinner sometime, I heard myself say yes and watched him pull out his phone in line and plug my name and number. Aaron and I began to hang out 3 or 4 nights a week, which to me meant we were dating and he’d kissed me a few times while helping me study for my massage school exams. It was a sweet and innocent relationship and I wondered and hoped it had a future because I was lonely. Also during that time my roommate Dena was finding herself in a blossoming relationship sort of thanks to me. I’d met a guy named Adam on MySpace a few weeks before I met Aaron, and we’d gone out a few times, with a vibe of friendship between us. But one of those times, as we were walking the streets of downtime Salt Lake City together, I pointed up at a tall skyscraper building, where an enormous banner of an athlete cross country skiing hung from the top of the building, and said, “so that’s my roommate Dena, she’s a former Olympian.” And that night after Adam met Dena when he dropped me off, the two of them became an item. I admit, having a roommate and sharing a bathroom as an adult can be challenging, but also sharing it with a guy you met online who’s now dating your roommate is just awkward, so I didn’t love being at home anymore, even though I was happy for them. So a few weeks into dating Aaron, when he first asked me if I wanted to sleep over, I jumped at the chance. And then I hardly left his place for about 3 weeks. On the 4th week, Dena let me know that her extra bedroom wasn’t going to be available anymore because Adam was moving in, so I needed to look for a new place. So there I was about to be homeless in Salt Lake City at a time when affordable or safe housing that allowed a dog was basically nonexistent. But along came Aaron’s invitation to move in with him immediately and it was a first for me to live with a guy, so it felt both daring and exhilarating. But I didn’t tell my family. I didn’t have much stuff, as most of it was in my parents’ storage unit, so my life at that time could be moved in 1 car load that didn’t even fill the car. Aaron’s apartment was nothing spectacular and had no specific decor making it anything special, but the fact that I had a home with a guy I liked made it feel special to me. Aaron and I would get rake out and watch dvds together at night and he’d repeatedly tell me that he was about to inherit a ton of money from a distant grandmother, but he’d say that wasn’t something he told many girls because he didn’t want to be liked for his money. I didn’t like him for the money he said he would have, but it was a nice idea knowing he came from money, as it oddly helped me feel safe. As the weeks went on though, Aaron spent more time at his construction job and started leaving for his bar job a little earlier and staying a little later. When his truck broke down and he said he didn’t have the money to repair it, I asked him if he could ask his rich grandmother for help, which seemed to always confuse him. His confusion made me wonder about the existence of said grandmother and her money, but I also didn’t want to start a fight, so I left it alone. Aaron would leave the house early in order to carpool with his friend, and then he’d ask me if he could drive my black Tacoma truck to the bar at night, something I wanted to say no to, but instead I said yes because I didn’t want to seem like a was being a bitch. I felt like each day I was doing my best to keep our relationship afloat, mainly because I needed a place for my dog and I to live. My massage school graduation came and went without much of an acknowledgement or presence from Aaron, and I noticed he seemed to always have plans and couldn’t hang out with me other than when we were at the house. I wondered how living together went from being something super fun and exciting, to being something I knew wasn’t right anymore, but didn’t know how to make it better. I didn’t have an exit strategy or a clear reason to break up with him; instead I felt like I needed to be grateful I had someone because it was better than being alone. But the Universe had my back and the end of our relationship made itself clear without much need for me to do anything. One day when I was at my massage job at a chiropractic office, a tall pretty blond entered the office and asked the front desk if worked there and if so, could she see me outside, and it wasn’t for a massage. After my client left, this girl and I went outside, where she told me all about her boyfriend Aaron, who she’d met at the bar a few weeks ago, and how 1 night when they were making out in his black Tacoma truck (my truck) outside the bar, she noticed my name on some books. She said he told her the truck was his, but the books belonged to a friend. Thankfully she didn’t believe him, so she looked my name up online, found my public MySpace account, discovered where I worked, because I was so proud of my first massage job I made it public, so there she was.
I couldn’t believe Aaron had done this, but I also could believe it at the same time. His recent behavior made a lot more sense now. After she left I sent Aaron a curt txt message, and went directly to his house after work, got my stuff and took it to my friend's house to spend a few days on her couch. She was my girlfriend from massage school, and it just so happened that she was just about to move out of her fully furnished apartment and release it back to her landlord, so we called her landlord and I was able to secure a 6 month lease out of pure luck. At that point I’d given Aaron money for rent and money to pay for his car, which was almost $1000, which was a lot for me, just barely being back in the working world again after school. So instead of letting this unfortunate turn of events go peacefully and writing off the money as a lesson, I used my free legal hookup from my brother in law, and I channeled my anger into serving Aaron with a small claims lawsuit, and won. But I never saw him again. And to think how much energy I'd given "us" was maddening and a little embarrassing. Aaron helped me raise my standards for the men I’d date, and I wouldn’t date anyone who worked at a bar or who had a full sleeve of tattoos, not realizing yet that it was not about tattoos or bars, but about the heart. Those lessons would have to keep on coming. I’m way past 1000 words and way past an hour, but there are so many more stories along this line to tell, so I’ll continue tomorrow. Namaste