I moved out west, driven by tailwinds and trailing lists of who I could become there. I went back to my birth certificate name, wore my dad’s suit coat as a jacket and scheduled all my classes for later in the day so I could stay up at night, dark windowed wondering with eyes dried by the high air. The altitude left me breathless, winded by autumn walks on campus and preserved by layers of clothes and silences.
I was homesick and foreign, speaking a language I was born to but didn’t understand. I backed into rooms, stayed on the edges of word soaked halls, and each night crept my way into the dark walled shared space of strangers.
What I knew was this; I was good at being a Mormon, the rules and expectations came easily to me in my caged and fisted fear. I learned swiftly, rivers of history blending me into a family of pioneers I earned my place in. I became fluent in humility, shame and coercion. I knew when to weep, when to be stoic, and when to weave the leg trapped language of salvation. I spent my days repenting and my nights remembering.
I went back to Idaho to visit that campus with my best friend from Canada, someone I would not have met if it hadn’t been for the young, frantic love for her brother. We went to sleep in the same bed the first night I slept over when we were both 16, and woke best friends; there we have stayed under the shared blanket of fierce first love.
We drove to the campus that had grown corpulent, the newest colony busily strident and sure. The apartment I lived in looked the same, the mountains in the background dusted with late snow holding in this valley of hopeful learning. We stood together and talked about who we were then, what we dreamed of when we arced here in planes fueled by a fervent need to build our next new life.
The second half of that year I found where the fun in me had been hiding and I began to speak it into existence. And that word, speak, trailed in the car with us as we drove towards a shared cocktail at a nearby bar, the line between then and now lit up with a freedom so vibrant we cried with laughter.