Colorado. Thatís where she said she wanted to live. Lauren wanted to live with me, wanted to marry me, and she wanted to start in Colorado.
Of course, Colorado. The land of scenery. The land of the Rockies and the Broncos. Season tickets. Yeah, I could do Colorado .
ďAre you sure? I love Colorado , but once we choose, thatís it," I
remember saying to her as she sat on my couch.
I wanted to sound like a man, like a man who was about to be the man of the house. I wanted to sound in charge, sound like I was leading her. We both thought of Colorado -- Lauren only said it first.
Where we were going was the easiest problem to solve. Why we were getting married was of course another one. We were not pregnant -- nor had we any opportunity to do so. We were not planning a wedding. There had been no knee bends, no roses, no giddy bridesmaids to measure for dresses. I hadnít even told my parents that the word "marriage" had come out of my mouth. And it took just once -- after it came out of her mouth that first time.
Some months before I had decided Lauren was the one. So when she said I was the one for her, I didnít say a word. A better man would have, though. All I did was stare.
She stood tall -- nearly as tall as the door. Volleyball in college. She was not
one of those athletic girls who often were asked if they liked boys. She was thin, fast, and sweet as a preacherís daughter. Which, of course she was.
I was an athlete, too. Taller than the door. I had an arm that threw baseballs that went fast and curved and sank and sometimes even did all three at once. Baseball was my way into school, and I thought it might be a way out. But I ended up with a degree in teaching.
Blonde hair, blue eyes -- that is how I thought "she" would look when I was in high school. Now a few months removed from college, a few months removed from blowing my arm out and a few months into the search for a job, "she" had finally come.
And we were headed to Colorado.
I thought we were headed there clean. I believed we might actually be the one pair of lovers with no secrets.
I know now that just as surely as we call them secrets we wear them on our sleeves. We want so much to have someone know us, to know our secrets, that we let little pieces of the truth go. We let them sit on our outside selves, hoping that cry for help, that cry for attention will get us what we want -- love, acceptance. God may be in the business of keeping secrets, but he is also on the job in revealing them, too.
That slight openness -- just a few inches to make the heart ajar -- keeps us, though, from the one thing we need -- the ability to deal with our secrets. We give only part and receive the penalty for our withholding the rest -- no fullness of life, a thinness.
Itís the thin part that now catches my memory. Thin. Not underweight, not sickly. But not even sure one way or the other. Lauren ate. She ate a lot, being an athlete and all. And I never noticed exactly how much because I always ate more, finishing her plate a lot.
Her parents were small, too. Her sister, a few years younger, was petite. And her friends always thought she was the best looking, because she had the figure that wasnít on either extreme.
It was like looking at a track star from the side and a princess from the front. The anorexia was never the secret between us. Thatís why we were getting married. She thought I was the one who could heal her, who could handle her sickness.
That night when she told me about Colorado, we paced around the room a lot. We traded spots on the couch until she eyed me. She wanted me to make the final decision.
I wanted to be the man. I wanted to be the man for her. And so when she suggested she wanted to marry me, how could I not? I loved her. Thatís what you do with people you love -- you marry them. And sometimes heal their secrets.
I wanted to be the man so I said follow me, honey, I know the way. To Colorado. Colorado. The word echoed. The syllables went off her tongue and hit the wall and slapped me in the face. It echoed more than the word "marriage." Marriage was a big thing, but I had known for some time I would be marrying her. But I never knew Colorado would be the place for us. Until she said Colorado.
There were other places she dreamed of. She read to me about them. Norman MacLeanís Montana and its whispering river. Or Flannery OíConnorís Georgia where they told stories on the porch. Or Pat Conroyís South Carolina and its haunted coast. It was those places that helped keep her secret. Because they were places of escape. They were places far off in the fictional sense. But if you looked close enough at them, at the characters who inhabited the stories there, you saw secrets. And the writer always revealed secrets at the end.
He never allowed the reader to move to Colorado.
While Lauren offered me a life of fiction, I offered the innocence of a boy not yet a man. And the innocence of baseball. I read her Shoeless Joe -- the book that became Field of Dreams. I spoke about baseball, about the purity of the game, like I spoke of her. Purity. Holiness. Like holding a white baseball in your hand, clean, with the seams raised.
I offered myself innocent and simple. Baseball is a simple game, a game with simple words. Hit. Catch. Throw. The sport is never life, but it can be a way to understand life. And when you understand life through a simple and innocent game, the secrets often stay hidden.
Itís not that baseballís philosophy failed me. I failed it. I failed to know the secret, the one I should have. It's like discovering your catcher gave you the wrong signs the entire game.
Of course she couldnít leave right away for Colorado. Had two months left on a lease. So I went out to Colorado to find a place to live, to start setting down roots. Do people who are 23 know how to set down roots?
I told everyone that I was seeing for free the places most people pay thousands to gawk at. Whitewater rafting trips. Hiking. And backpacking.
Each morning I saw the mountains. Each afternoon I saw them as well. Those were my times -- designated for glory watching.
The grass was thick in the city park, thick as the hair on my legs. I sat in it and rubbed my fingers through it. The blades were delicate and minute and offered their own reason for praise.
But I became a smaller creature when I put a grass clipping up to the sky. My eyes saw past its thinness into the ages of rocks that had piled up and settled the land.
The tops of the mountains connected like a graph line. I could follow the line in a circle, all the way back around. I was surrounded. Surrounded and succumbing to Colorado. God reveals his creation openly, but holds back some things from his creatures.
I was living rent-free in the basement of a mansion. A man I met at the golf course lived there. And with all the money he had he built a place that gave him all that space. And he didnít care if I paid one dollar. He just didnít want to waste it.
I was supposed to start teaching after the summer. And even coach baseball in the spring. And she was supposed to be there soon.
Lauren hid the sickness well when it first began to control her. That was in high school. But when her parents discovered it -- I was never told how -- they made her leave college for a semester. That was in her third year. I met her the semester she came back. I met her after she learned from her doctors how to hide it even better.
In the two months we were apart, while I was preparing both our home and my heart for her arrival, she was hiding. She radiated glee over the phone, talked about newness and salvation and life.
Lauren had words of truth. She was a poet and preacher. She knew the power of words, and how if you say the right ones, you can seem true and keep your secrets hidden.
She wanted me to heal her, but was afraid that I couldn't handle it all. That I couldn't handle all of her. And God went along with her deception up to the last minute, keeping the truth from me.
It was sometime in the middle of the night about a week before she was to come that she called for the last time. She was crying. She said she had been lying. She said she was admitting herself to a hospital that same morning. She said she was not coming to Colorado. Then she said nothing.
Silence. A better man would have said something. A better man would have known the secret being revealed. All I did was breathe.
God does not keep secrets forever. He reveals truth as it becomes necessary. It became necessary because I was avoiding the revelation. A better man would have known the secret being revealed. A better man would have said no to Colorado, even no to marriage. A better man would have said something.
I left Colorado. But I didnít come back to Lauren. I came back to me.
A friend asked me the other day if I was dating anyone. I said no. I said I didnít know how to do that anymore. At 23, is one supposed to know how to do anything? I suppose not. I know very few things. I know how to make a ball curve from the chest to the knee. I know how to pray.
And I know what the sunset looks like in Colorado.
©2008 by Matthew Boedy