Journey to Love

Chapter Thirty-nine


by Sequoyah

Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott




Mom and I talked about other things for an hour, then as I was leaving, she said, “Derek, Son, you are a kind, generous, loving man. I don’t want that to ever change. You are you, but if you decide to allow someone else to determine who, what and how you are, you are no longer that man.” I thought about all she had said as I drove aimlessly.


I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I realized I was headed down Mr. Manning’s drive. Fortunately it was Saturday or he would have been in school. I saw him working in a small field half-way down the drive, pulled over and stopped. “Ah, just what I need, help,” he laughed as I walked up. “Every year I tell Stu I’ll not do a garden and by February I have ordered seed and started plants. So what are you up to out here in the boonies?”


“I needed to talk to my third dad, I guess.”


“Trouble in paradise?”


“It seems that way.” I then told him what had by now become old hat.


When I finished, he did not speak for several minutes. “Derek, one of the hardest things for us to understand is how someone we know and love can change suddenly. What we often fail to understand is that no-one has changed. The other is simply not who we made him out to be, imagined him to be.


“It occurs to me that you have been told stories which have led you to believe things are not as they were. You know the story of Stu and me. We fell in love seemingly at first glance and you know us, know me very well, so love at first sight seems perfectly reasonable. Two people you love verging on worship, Sam and Brad fell in love at first sight. Why wouldn’t you think it was not only possible, but probable?


“Let’s be honest, at least fifty percent and likely closer to ninety of that love at first sight was lust, desire, whatever you want to call it. For some reason, the other is compellingly attractive and arouses a mixture of feelings. Then, as a couple lives together, works together, struggles together, love deepens, but at the same time, they become more and more real, more and more who they are and less and less who they imagine each other to be. Sometimes the love does not deepen enough to sustain a relationship when the imagined other fades away as the real other is revealed. Sure it hurts. Sure you wish it didn’t happen, but how much more tragic is it when the relationship continues, based not on love but on an imagined lover in an imagined world. Does that make sense?”


I nodded and said, “Yeah!,” grinned and added, “Seems we’ve had this conversation before. Why do I keep being deluded?”


Mr. Manning grinned, “Because you are a romantic and see people and the world in the best possible light. Hope that doesn’t change, but you have to learn as well to face evidence to the contrary.”


“You’re saying I should go to Arizona?”


“No, I am not saying that. If you want my best honest opinion, I’d say go, but that’s not what I am saying. Let’s look at it this way. You and Wolf met. You were immediately attracted to each other. Wisely, you decided to take sex slowly, but you also took developing your relationship slowly while living as though it was full grown, mature. Part of that came about because you were never far enough away from the relationship and each other to see it as it was and as it should be and work on it. I don’t like to tell someone what to do. I don’t know all the ins and outs of your life, much less Wolf’s, but in this case I think I know enough about relationships to say, ‘Go to Arizona. The future and health of your relationship depends on it’.”


“You know you just told me to end my relationship with Wolf,” I said as tears started forming in my eyes.


“No, I told you your relationship with Wolf had to grow or die. It cannot be static.” Mr. Manning hugged me tightly and held me as the tears poured. When I had finally stopped crying, he said, “Remember, Derek, you are standing on unknown ground. Do not make rash assumptions.”


Half an hour later I was thinking about what all the important people in my life had told me concerning my relationship with Wolf. It would require work and I was determined to work very hard at making it solid. However, I was certain that it would not be easy since I was positive that the future of that relationship and of me as my own person depended on my going to Arizona.


I was headed down the drive to Grace House when my phone rang. When I picked it up, I saw it was Wolf. Since I was on our drive and not the road, I flipped the phone open and said, “Hi, Babe.”


Words tumbled out of the mouth of a very excited Wolf. “Derek, we are going to Atlanta. I am there now. I got a call from CNN yesterday offering me a twelve-week internship, half in Atlanta and half in New York. We’ll only be separated six weeks while I am in New York. CNN is providing a nice apartment and Grady Hospital is not very far way and I’ve been assured there would be something you could do there. I am so excited. Do you realize what this means for my future career?”


“Whoa! You’re in Atlanta?”


“Yeah. CNN called shortly before noon and I was able to get a flight out of Norfolk -- Louis said you had gone to Stanton when I called from the airport -- and got here before 9:00 last night. I have been meeting people all day and it is all so great and exciting. I can hardly wait to start. I’ll finish up here tomorrow and fly back, we’ll get things together, pack up the car and I’ll start start here Monday week.


When I was finally able to get a word in edgewise, I asked, “So, Wolf, exactly when are we going to discuss this?”


“What do you mean? What’s to discuss? I mean there’s nothing to discuss.”


“We need to talk about it since it impacts both of us. How soon do you have to made a decision?”


“You don’t understand, Derek. I have signed the agreement. I start Monday week.”


“Wolf, this is not the way a relationship works. You are acting as though you are single and free to make any decision you care to make and I am supposed to go along with it. No way would you consider being separated when it involved my going to Arizona, but when your internship requires a six-week separation, that’s okay. Take it or leave it.”


“This is different, Derek. You can do medicine anywhere. I can’t do TV just anywhere and now I have been selected to intern with the best. We’ll only be separated six weeks. You could fly up to New York for a couple days during that time. I don’t see what your problem is. I’ll be back Wednesday, so get your things ready. I’ve got to run now. Bye!”


‘A crisis of faith occurs when the other is not as you believed him to be’. I’m not sure who said that, but he sure as hell knew what he was talking about. My dads were at home, but their bedroom door was closed. I guess to most anyone, my situation was not an emergency. Still, I only hesitated briefly before knocking softly on the closed door. There was no answer and I was turning away when the door opened and Brad grabbed me in a hug and the tears started.


Nudity was a given at Grace House, especially upstairs. Downstairs we generally were dressed at least in shorts, but upstairs? A nude Brad held me until I regained some control, then led me to the bed where Sam flipped back the sheet and I crawled in beside him and Brad lay down on my other side. Both wrapped an arm around me and held me close. No-one spoke until I had cried myself out.


“Bad news, Baby Boy?” Sam asked.


“Depends entirely on who you ask. To me, bad news, to Wolf, the best possible news.” I then told them about the phone call.


“Can you understand how important this is to Wolf? I’m sure he has dreamed of a similar situation for years,” Brad said. “Sure, he’s being self-centered and wrapped up in his world right now. Later? Who can tell. When will you get a chance to talk?”


“What’s to talk about?” I asked. “Wolf has signed an agreement. He is going to Atlanta. After talking with you, Mom and Mr. Manning, I am going to Arizona.”


“Derek, just because of this disagreement, you have decided it is all over. You and Wolf can decide to work on your relationship. Mr. Manning told you, a separation can be a time to grow, personally and in a relationship. Baby Boy, give it a moment’s thought. You are being as rash as Wolf. He makes a decision without talking with you and you decide your relationship is all over. Wouldn’t it be better to agree to go your separate ways this summer, stay in contact and make a decision as a result of your experience? After all, you both have decided on an internship for the summer, but you don’t have to make a decision about your relationship now.”


“You’re right, Sam, but I’ll wait until Wednesday to talk with Wolf. Right now he won’t let me get a word in edgewise. I do need, however, to call Kathryn and tell her I’ll be in Arizona this summer.”


I had nothing pressing in Norfolk and Louis and Caroline were enjoying hell out of the apartment and Louis told me to take as long as needed. I told him I’d be back Tuesday since Wolf was returning Wednesday. Sam and Brad had me call Kathryn about what I’d need and she gave them a list of clothing as well as other things. They told her to order everything and have it ready to pick up when I got into Flagstaff.


Wednesday Wolf blew in, which is the best way to describe his arrival. It took him fifteen minutes of excited chatter before he’d run down enough to realize I had said nothing. “So, isn’t it wonderful? You’ll love Atlanta. It is an exciting town and Grady and Emory’s medical school are connected. I met Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He said he’d help you find a situation. Aren’t you excited?” Wolf finally came to a semi-halt.


“Wolf, we need to do some serious talking about our relationship. For starters, I will not be in Atlanta with you. I’m going to Arizona.”


“Now, Derek, we agreed we didn’t want to be separated and that you’d find a place where I got a good internship and I got one of the best.”


“No, Wolf, we did not agree. You decided. Not only did you make that decision, but you did it without asking me and, in fact, you did it without even letting me know you had been offered the internship.”


Wolf picked up a pillow from the couch and threw it across the room and started shouting about how selfish I was and how I knew what a feather in his cap the internship was. He then started poking fun at my wanting to ‘ride the range, the wonder-working medicine man.’ He was completely out of control, hysterical.


I finally grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “Wolf, sit down, calm down and give me a chance to say something,” I said in a calm and I’m sure icy voice. I guess that got through to him. I then explained my view of the situation and he half-listened, but mostly he was thinking about what he was going to say in response to what he was sure I would say. Finally I said, “Wolf, we’ll both be very busy this summer. We’ll be experiencing and learning a great deal, not least of which, I hope, will be about ourselves. We’ll need to keep each other aware of what is going on with us. As everyone pointed out to me, we haven’t had an opportunity to be apart and look at our relationship and the place of each of us in it. We have this summer. Let’s meet half-way and spend a weekend talking about our summer’s experience and our relationship the last of August unless there is no need because of our experience.”


“Then we’re breaking up?” he asked. “Is that your decision?”


“Not at all. We are going our separate ways this summer because we need to be in two different places. You certainly need to be with CNN, it is an excellent opportunity for you. I certainly will not be responsible for you missing it. No way are you turning that opportunity down if I have anything to say about it, but I don’t need to be in Atlanta. Maybe I’d get to watch surgery. Maybe I’d get to see doctors doing rounds. Maybe I’d do something other than empty bed pans, but I certainly would not have the experience I’ll have as you said ‘riding the range,’ not as a wonder-working medicine man, but in some cases closest someone will come to really doing the job of a doctor.


“Wolf, as Sam, Brad, Mom and Mr. Manning pointed out, we have never been separated and had an opportunity to really look at our relationship and where it needs to -- must -- change and grow. We have now been given that opportunity. Does that mean we are breaking up? I hope not. Does it mean we might break up? That’s possible, but we have time to think and see where we are. I can tell you this, I cannot live in a one-way relationship where decisions are made unilaterally. To be honest, you decided what I needed to do and where I needed to do it was secondary to what you needed to do. Even worse, you essentially said our relationship wasn’t important to you or as important as what you planned to do this summer. You made a decision without even telling me about the offer. That said to me I didn’t count. Well, maybe not in your book, but I do count in mine.”


“Sounds selfish and self-centered to me,” Wolf said.


“Yeah, like deciding we’d be in Atlanta and separated for six weeks after saying I couldn’t go to Arizona and us be separated.”


“Well, fuck you!” Wolf shouted, walked out of living room and slammed the door.


I wanted to shout back, “Not likely,” but suppressed the impulse.


Wolf quickly got together what he needed, packed and loaded the car, ready to leave. He had planned to spend the night and leave for Elizabethton early Thursday, but when he was packed, he said, “Derek, keep in touch,” kissed me on the cheek and left. I was in tears before he was out of the drive. I wondered what Wolf was thinking and realized I had no idea because the fact was I didn’t know Wolf.


Auntie and I went out for dinner since she was leaving in the morning. We had a nice dinner and I was surprised that I enjoyed it. We talked about a lot of things, but Wolf and our relationship was not one of them. After dinner, I went back to an empty apartment and later to an empty bed. I’ll admit I felt pretty empty myself.


Thursday morning I took Auntie to the airport at the crack of dawn and saw her through the security gate. On the way back, I had breakfast at an IHOP and, this time, returned to an empty house.


After I had sat with a blank mind, staring at nothing for fifteen minutes, I shook myself and decided to call Sharky and Antwon, little expecting an answer, but they were only a couple miles offshore so had cell service. We talked for about an hour. I explained the situation and both encouraged me to make the best of the summer. “It will be one you’ll remember in your old age,” Anton assured me.


“Keep in touch with Wolf as best you can. Since you have dial-up, you’ll be pretty much limited to text, but take pictures. At the end of the summer, you’ll have a good idea of whether you had a relationship or just a serious, but limited, time together,” Sharky said. “And, Dude, you did the right thing,” he said just before hanging up.


Auntie gave me money for a good camera with interchangeable lens and I went shopping for one. I went to several shops and finally found one near the naval base where the salesman knew he had a sale, so he really did spend time determining what was best for me and helping me make a selection. After I purchased the camera and equipment, he gave me a small point and shoot camera. “This is a discontinued model and marked way down, but still hasn’t sold. People want the latest. The card in this will hold several hundred pictures and the camera is small enough to keep in a pocket. Keep it there. You’ll be surprised at the number of pictures you will take with it compared with the larger one.”


I had finished packing by 3:00 and had my bags in the car -- I was taking very little as I’d be outfitted in Flagstaff -- when Louis and Caroline came by. They would be in the house for the summer in exchange for caring for the yard and house. I showed them where things were -- again -- and they moved in everything except themselves. They would be back early Friday to take me to the airport.


My flight didn’t leave Norfolk until 9:15 and because of the time difference, I’d arrive in Flagstaff at 4:00. Since I had to change planes twice, I knew the nine hour trip would exhaust me, and it did. I took a shuttle to a hotel where Kathryn would pick me up at 8:00 the next morning.


When I had checked in, I went to the room and took a long, hot shower. Already I missed my shower and chuckled when I realized it might well be twelve weeks before my next one. After my shower, I lay across the bed just to relax a few minutes and woke up two hours later. I decided to check out a local restaurant and asked the desk clerk for a recommendation. She recommended a brew pub and told me where to sit if I didn’t want to have the waiter take too close a look at my ID. I did and had a great meal and some really nice beers. The waiter added to my enjoyment as he was a real hottie and we flirted outrageously.


Back at the hotel, I thought about calling Wolf to see how he was doing, then decided not to, but finally broke down and called. There was no answer.


I slept well and awoke refreshed. I was surprised that I had been able to sleep without Wolf beside me and maybe I did because the trip had been tiring. I showered, shaved, dressed and had breakfast all before 7:30. I repacked as necessary and was ready to go when Kathryn called.


When she came up, she asked, “How’s Wolf? What’s he doing this summer?”


I told her all.


“I’m sorry for the cost to your relationship. Wolf seemed a nice guy.”


“He is, it’s just that our goals for the moment are in conflict. We needed to realize that and have time to do some serious thinking about our goals and our relationship.”


 “I can think of no better place to do that than where you will be. I am so glad you decided to come. I can’t promise you’ll be a brain surgeon by the end of the summer, but you’ll have had more actual experience practicing medicine than most first-year medical students. Well, let’s get you outfitted.”


I expected a couple pairs of jeans and a few tees. What I got was half a dozen pairs of really rugged jeans, as many long-sleeved shirts, two pair of boots, a couple of hats and assorted other items. When I questioned her selection of a heavy jacket, she said, “You are going into some pretty rugged country. You’ll be in the desert. It can get cold at night.”


Kathryn had some other shopping to do and we were finally ready to head to her place shortly after lunch. The trip from Flagstaff would take over three hours and was through country unlike any I had ever known. Everything seemed so big and open. The air was clear and sometimes you could see for miles. What I did not see were people. The small towns we saw were few and far apart and between, it was all wild, uninhabited space. “Easterners often feel lost in such places as we are passing through. They feel it is desolate and, in a way, I suppose it is, but I love it. After all it is home to me and my people and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years. I hope you’ll come to love it as well, Derek.”


She talked about her work, about the country and the people. After we had been driving for over two hours, we stopped in Page and picked up a few things and were back on the road. Half an hour out of Page, Kathryn turned down a trail which was barely visible tracks. Soon even the faint tracks seemed to disappear. I realized we were descending and Kathryn explained we were going into a canyon. I was surprised when I suddenly saw a few trees and a patch of green. Kathryn pulled up in front of an adobe house. Behind the house, I saw a tiny trickle of water spilling over the rocks of the canyon wall.


“You have water!” I exclaimed.


“We do for some of the year, but we also have underground tanks which hold a six-month supply if we are careful. Right now the tanks are full and we are pretty free with our water, but still recycle much of it.


“This place has been in my family for many, many years. It has been cared for and has provided well for us. You grow things, Derek?”


“I have been learning since I started living with Auntie, mostly flowers.”


“We grow what my people have always grown, beans, corn, squash and have added things they did not know. We experiment with new things every year seeking plants that we can grow here.”


“Kathryn, you speak of ‘we’ and ‘my people’.”


“‘We’ are Richard and myself. Richard is the physician’s assistant I told you about. He was an army medic as I told you and earned his PA certification while he was in the army. He saw things in Iraq that left him pretty broken. In fact, no-one would hire him and he was headed down a road a lot of Native Americans travel -- drugs and alcohol -- when an elderly uncle pretty much kidnapped him and brought him to the reservation. It took a year, but when I met him, he was in fine shape and determined to spend the rest of his life here.


“‘My people’ are the Hopi and Navajo. They are traditional enemies, but like Romeo and Juliet, my mom and dad overcame that. As I told you in Norfolk, Mom was Navajo, Dad Hopi. My place was my mother’s and her mother’s before her and that goes back more generations than I know.”


Inside we had a glass of cold water before Kathryn showed me to my room. It was large and surprisingly cool since the outside temperature was in the nineties. “You have a closet, chest, dresser and bed. We share the bathroom. Right now, a decent shower -- like fifteen minutes -- is okay and will be so long as we have water. When we switch to the tanks, it’ll be wet down, soap up, rinse off. You need anything, ask. If we have it, it’s yours. If not, we’ll get it in a week or two when someone has to go into town. By the way, I should have asked before, but do you ride?”




“Yeah, as on a horse.”


“No, I don’t and don’t plan to,” I laughed.


“Start changing your plans,” she smiled, but didn’t laugh.



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