For two years, this was what we had. I grew in my job. Diane studied and took classes. One night a week, we had each other.
Whatever night it would be depended on my schedule, of course, because Diane always made time for me. That’s not to say that she was cloying or needy because she wasn’t. She just did her school work and took care of the two of us; those two things were her prerogative.
The difference between our days together and our nights together was staggering. On Saturdays or Sundays we would hit up a Farmer’s Market or a neighborhood festival and then maybe separate for the night. I would go my way and hang with my friends out in Boys Town and try to not black out from everything I did. When I was with Diane, I wouldn’t drink at all. I guess I was trying a lot of lifestyles on on as though they were garments in a thrift store.
* * *
The day that I knew it was over was the day of a storm in July. Aly and I were driving to pick up some groceries from a Jewel-Osco around Forest Park. My mom was starting to get sick around that time and I had wanted to go to that particular store (miles farther from my apartment in Grant Park) so that I could talk to her, sit a while and drink some mint tea. I think that Aly liked the peace. She was living differently back then and I think that she liked some change of scenery. Anyway, we were driving along and the rains came up in this charcoal gray cloud to the south. Before I knew what had happened, the cloud was upon us and hitting the car so hard that Aly lifted completely off the accelerator and made the car slow down to only a few miles per hour. Hail was hitting the windows. The car in front of us disappeared completely. This is how summer rains in the Midwest. Rains against a windshield are the most mournful landscape you’ve ever seen.
So, we’re going along, almost spinning off the highway, and I’m squeezing my hands together so hard between my legs. I’m so afraid and I don’t know why it hurts so much. Can’t even squeeze out a sob. Aly? She laughs at the “unreasonable” weather as she calls it. A storm never frightened her. She’s one of those weirdos that gets off on disaster.
I don’t know. It wasn’t even the way she reacted. She said nothing and this moment spoke to me; I realized that it signified something between the two of us that was very different. Once it stopped, she looked over at me, still laughing, and said something like, “Well, that was a hell of a storm, huh?” And, I mean, I couldn’t cry, so I just said: “We’re different.”
* * *
And that was that for us. A few years later, in 2001, I had an inkling that nothing really was resolved on that stormy day in 1996. Five years since that day. Her mother would die soon and my husband and I were going through some troubles—other friends were getting their own divorces. We were 30 years old and not ready for the hard shit that was hitting us. Gaining our independence from Monroe and graduating from college seemed like a triumph in itself. So, we thought we were ready for other things. We swung from inverse to inverse and always peaked at opposite times.
* * *
When I see those dried-up locust leaves this time of year, I think of that summer storm and her. When I see the three letters of her name, I think of the dried-out trails that led us up to Buzzard’s Point. I see an indigo and think of the silly insects that survive at the top of the trail.