In my closet there are a couple of bags of papers for sorting and shredding that I have ignored for years. This weekend I finally am going through them, and as expected, there are some painful memories of the past in there. What is painful is the reminder of good times past with J. I didn’t feel much when I saw documentation of J’s name change, or even the Christmas collage my parents sent out as their holiday card last year that included a photo of myself, J, and Little Man (J moved out shortly after that holiday). Those things made me feel thoughtful, but no worse.
Then there was a photocopy of J’s old driver’s license (why, I do not know, but it was there). The photo was taken four years ago. At that time our relationship was already in the process of changing. I didn’t know it then, of course. But J had already come out to me about wanting to cross-dress. One year after that photo was taken, J would tell me that he was transgender. Sometimes I imagine having the opportunity to talk to the J of the past. Not to let him know about his future or to try and change anything, but just to talk and get a sense of the person I used to be so close to. It’s not even the J of 2012 I want to talk to– It’s the J of 2006 or 2007 or so. The J I knew in the early years of our relationship, who cared about me and was enthusiastic about getting outside and exploring the American West.
Another paper I found in the stack was a storage facility rental agreement from Hurricane, Utah. During the winter of 2007/08 we drove a U-haul truck with the contents of our first apartment from Washington to the southwest through some of the worst winter storms I have ever experienced. After we loaded up the truck in Washington we had to wait several days to start driving, because a storm came through and our truck got plowed in, plus a power line came down on top of it. When we did start driving we passed wrecked vehicles all the way from Washington to Idaho, and we nearly didn’t make it over Deadman’s Pass in Oregon before another storm closed it. In fact, we had to drive the pass three times, because my car was on a trailer hitched to the truck, and the pass was closed to trailers when we arrived. We drove J’s car and the moving truck over the top first, came back together in J’s car, and returned the third time driving both my car and J’s. It was past midnight when we checked into a motel, and I had a phone interview for a job first thing in the morning (I was later offered the job, and took it). When we arrived in southern Utah I felt as though we had entered a different world. Zion National Park was nearby. There was redrock all around, and we were in a very different desert than the sagebrush country I knew from the northwest. The storage facility in Hurricane was a small stop-over for our belongings while we decided where to live. It wouldn’t be long before we moved another hour + down the road to Moapa Valley in southern Nevada. I won’t say it was a great town for us (it was small and religious and we were an introverted, non-religious couple without children who had no easy way to connect to our neighborhood), but the landscape was amazing. I still remember driving down I-15 from Utah, exiting a long canyon and seeing Joshua trees for the first time in my life. When we found a rental in Moapa Valley I remember it being months before I could look at the palm trees lining the streets of town with anything other than awe and excitement. A few minutes from our apartment there was a slot canyon to explore, and more rugged country than I had ever had access to before. I was seeing a new part of the country with my best friend and partner, and I was happy.
Sometimes I wish I could talk to the J of those days. If I came home one day and saw that J, would it be obvious that the me walking in the door was nearly a decade older than the me that J knew and loved? My longer hair at least would give me away, but I like to imagine just being able to walk in and be me without having to reveal all the complicated things about time travel and being a future version of myself. I would just like to be there, in that present, for a few hours. I would ask J to go on a short hike with me, and we would walk and talk, two of my favorite things. I would remember what it was like to be cared for and I would try to puzzle out in my mind the connection between that past and this present in which J is essentially gone from my life, and is a person with such different interests and concerns that I hardly recognize her sometimes. I would ask past-J about his goals for the future, and I would let him talk to me about the things he had, at the time, so much enthusiasm for. We would wander around that open, beautiful countryside and I would enjoy the old companionship again, just for a while. Maybe I would come away feeling sadder about my current present, or maybe I would feel more at peace, having had the chance to say goodbye to the person who I first fell in love with. I like to think it would be the latter experience.