Eighteen years ago was a hotter June 4th. Eighteen years ago this evening, I was sitting on the hood of a car with my ex-boyfriend and all the sudden realized: "My life starts now."
I had graduated from college just a few weeks beforehand. I was hanging around for the summer, "finishing up an incomplete." (Note to friends: that's along the same lines as "going to see E.T.") My life at that point was a big question mark. I had a very vague grasp on the future. I guess I thought I would be going to graduate school at U.T. and driving back to Johnson City on the weekends to hang-out with all my friends (who were still in college) and continue our regular college life. It was all very nebulous. I'd been accepted in U.T's English department for graduate school, but I really had no plan. The future went no further than that night's plans.
But on that night, June 4, I saw my future with perfect clarity, and he was sitting on the hood of the car right there with me. To think that moment might not have happened used to frighten me. Sometimes in later years I would have those kinds of dreams where we are lost to each other, and I'd wake feeling like I'd been weeping all night. I am still relieved and overjoyed to find him here with me.
We had been officially broken-up for 8 months at that point, but the year before that had not been a good one. It's all so complicated--was then, and is now. Who can explain who we were then? But I had let him go and had moved on. It was a choice I made every day. At twenty-two, I knew that I'd already had the love of my life. I knew that I could and would go on. I'd get married someday, have kids. But I knew that what we'd had at 19 would never be replaced.
There was this poem called "Four Poems for Robin" by Gary Snyder that I saw as my future. I read this so many times during my senior year in college that I had it nearly memorized. I was resigned to this fate in the last stanzas of the poem:
Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.
We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.
I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my
But on that muggy June night 18 years ago, all kinds of things fell into place. I can't remember what led up to us sitting on the hood of the car. I can't remember much of what was said, except for a quote from a Dire Straits song. What I do remember is that powerful feeling that all moments in my life had led up to this place, this person, and this future.
Some people scoff at young love. I do it myself sometimes, because 19 just seems so, well, young. (And so does 20, and 21, and 22, for that matter!) A young woman at church, having recently broken up with her boyfriend, asked me: "How do you know who is 'the one'? Do you ever just completely know?" To answer that question with a yes is the most I can do, because to explain that knowing is impossible. Sometimes, you just know.