Other people’s lives seem more interesting cause’ they ain’t mine…
—Modest Mouse (from Lonesome Crowded West)
“Did you have one of those viewfinders as a kid, you know, those camera-like things that worked like a projector?” I ask Craig, looking out at Paternal from the end of our five-hour hike.
“Oh yeah, I remember those,” he laughs and leans into the juniper tree behind him, “with the little paper discs that you put into the slots and clicked the lever so that you could see the images as if you were actually there?”
“Yeah,” I say, squinting over the desert landscape below us.
I could see the winding road leading back to the main part of the ranch, where, all summer, I sat next the pool in the shadow of Kitchen Mesa, where I watched other people’s children every day for almost four months, and where my boss told my ex he could no longer be a lifeguard because of the tension between the two of us and she trusted me more. Where I was on my way to the bathroom one afternoon, and in one deft movement, lifted a drowning toddler from the kiddie pool, only to find the mother completely oblivious to the entire scene. Where I taught local children how to dive, headfirst, by diving alongside them.
The view was perfectly clear. To the West, Paternal—the mountain Georgia O’Keefe claimed that God told her she could have if she painted it again and again. To the North, Chimney Rock and Highway 84 winding up to Taos. To the South, the same highway leading down to Santa Fe, and behind us, to the East, a network of hills and valleys that blinded the mind. Beyond that, I could not find an image. No matter how many times I clicked the lever in my viewfinder, there was nothing but a white light.
Craig and I sat silence for hours, and I thought about what I had to do when we descended.
“We should go. Sun’s starting to set and we don’t want to get caught in the dark,” he said finally.
“You’re right,” I said as I watched the cars move like ants on the highway. I knew what I had had to do when we reached the college staff housing, but I had know idea how I was going to do it.
I knew that coming out was not something you planned. It was something that you dove into, headlong, and uncertain if you would come up again.