|The view atop Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine|
This Saturday, Tom and I move in together. It actually came up about a year ago. It was late August and we had just hiked to the top of Sargent Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. We were feeling good about our relationship. Me especially, considering I had, the day before, done something very stupid which I can’t write about here because if I do there’s a chance I’ll go to prison. Thank God, no one died. If you know what I did, don’t say anything about it here (unless you want me to blog from prison), just keep it to yourself, chuckle and say, “Oh yeah, that.”
It happened at the beginning of what was supposed to be a relaxing long weekend in Maine and instead of sailing on Thursday afternoon as we’d planned, we spent twice as long on the road, first in a junky tow truck that smelled of cigarettes, engine oil, and sweat, driven by someone who can only be described as a redneck and then with Tom behind the wheel, driving for an additional five hours after having driven almost eight hours the day before.
During the entire fiasco, Tom remained calm, steadfast. He reminded me of my dad. A lot.
He soothed me, never became angry or frustrated or made “a fuss,” as he would have called it, because, “What good would that do, what’s done is done.” He made all the necessary phone calls and arrangements and without a hint of ire, got us from point A to B, back to A and finally, to C. At the end of what to me, seemed an interminable, almost ruined day, he emerged from the bathroom, glasses on over tired eyes, face washed, minty-breathed, and hugged me.
“Well, all things considered, I still had a good time.”
I thought not for the first time, but with absolute clarity for the first time, “He makes me feel safe.”
The next day, our itinerary somewhat back on track, we hiked Sargent Mountain as planned. Still dazed from the previous day’s events, I walked behind Tom, marveling at his energy and ability to navigate the mountain. It was all behind him, at least for now, and I tried to follow that thought.
The view at the top was stunning. That morning, as though a special gift to us for all that we’d been through, the mountain belonged solely to us. Everyone else could be seen milling atop the peak of the neighboring mountain. Like idiot lemmings, they peered at us with curious envy. The day was neither too hot nor cold with just the right amount of cumulus clouds swirling above to provide alternating bouts of sun and shade. Sprawled out before us, Acadia’s many lakes and harbors glistened with barely rolling waves.
Someone once remarked, when standing in my parents’ backyard in California which overlooks a rather bland stretch of South Orange County, that however unremarkable, having a wide open view to look at every morning, noon and night was bound to change a person’s outlook. It makes you more open-minded, she had said. I stood next to her, leaned on the railing and looked at the still undeveloped hills and newly paved roads upon which gleaming sedans and SUVS cruised smoothly to and fro. I agreed. In the spring the land was green. In the summer brown. Each year more houses and wider roads were built and the view stretched further as the city and the lives in it developed.
I thought about that view while standing on top of Sargent Mountain with Tom. Maine, the vista, it was all very new for both of us. The wind cooled and smelled sweet from trees and ocean breeze. On the water we could see white specks of sailboats, upon their decks lay people living the good life. I thought too about what concerned my parents most when I started dating: “Temperament,” they asked, “How is his temperament?” More specifically, my father would ask, “How is his temper?” My mother used different words, “Does he make you feel secure?”
The answers you give when everything is going well, they count too, but not as much as when things get tough.
It began to rain a light, soothing rain. I felt my mind opening up to accommodate the future. While what happened in Maine is likely small beans compared to what lies ahead, I saw from how Tom handled this situation, how he’d likely handle other situations. It was a comforting thought.
“I think I can marry you,” I said.
And while being at the top of a mountain with just me probably made it hard to say anything else, he had nodded, “Yeah. I was thinking we should move in together next summer, when our leases are up.”
We stayed on the mountain for another couple hours until the air cooled considerably and the clouds overtook the sky. The sun was all but gone. We had a little over an hour to make it down the mountain before it started to pour. But we took our time. At least I did, having found someone with whom to weather the storm. (Cue: Rihanna song).