The key, a quarter, and a weekend in heaven(and other places)

What is the key? Soldier found a key in the second of my rental cars Saturday. But that’s not the key I mean. No, what is the key to me? Sometimes I lose sight of myself, even when I’m experiencing joy, excitement, and gratitude. I get lost in the fog of my own self-doubt. But this problem is temporary. I am willing to strive to find the key. After 5 days in Nashville, I feel the effort is worthwhile.

My summer vacation started out rough, to make a huge understatement. On the first day away from work, I learned that my mentor and partner in crime at work has taken a job in another school district. While I was excited at the prospect of learning to come into my own at work on Tuesday evening, I panicked on Wednesday afternoon when she gave me the official confirmation. I spent the rest of the day, pacing rooms, second-guessing my skills, constantly close to tears. I couldn’t wait to get to Nashville.

Imagine my dismay Thursday evening when I couldn’t locate Soldier. Due to miscommunication, he did not know I would be arriving then and I did not know he had changed his work schedule. His phone was off. More panic. I got lost on Nashville freeways in the worst thunderstorm I have ever seen. Cars and trucks were pulling over to the shoulder to be safe in the torrential downpour. My heart pounding, I kept inching my rental car forward, even as I struggled to see. Eventually, I made it to my hotel to a rough night of tears and worry. Silly me, so quick to believe the worst.

Friday morning, I wandered the Country Music Hall of Fame, my stomach in knots. The brightest spot was seeing Johnny Cash’s guitar. More tears. More panic. I called the airline and booked the next flight out. As I rushed out of my hotel room, I fell and twisted my ankle. I turned in my room key, my rental car, and cried in the airport to my best friend. Then Soldier called. Within an hour, I was checking into the beautiful and memorable Renaissance Hotel, site of my first visit to Nashville. By midnight, despite Soldier’s “cloud of negativity”,which included a flat tire on his bike, we were together and all was better in the universe.

Saturday featured several firsts: German food, leaving a movie before the opening credits, my first major panic attack(this one involved numbness in each of my extremities, my torso, and face), a midnight walk in a park, singing along with a favorite Cure song at Cabana, and other new experiences. Saturday became Sunday. Arrived in heaven.

What is heaven like? Heaven is getting out of bed around 2 in the afternoon. It is lunch with not-so-great food, but sharing lots of laughter. It is a silvery Art Deco building where worldbeat lounge music plays. Soldier leads me by the hand past intriguing and beautiful art. We speak French to one another. Heaven is several good night kisses given, hidden behind the open drunk door of a rental car, a playful smack on the bottom. It is an unexpected text message Monday morning. Heaven is Soldier caressing my right hand because after all, the car is an automatic. In the shade of a tree and in the front seat of a car, Soldier and I shared truths and kisses I won’t soon forget. The harvest moon he offered me as comfort on the phone Monday night.

And what of the other places I visited this past week? There were times when I felt I was in limbo waiting, in purgatory repenting, in hell suffering but I know these places were of my mind’s making. I don’t remember them all, thank goodness, and I can only hope that I can be forgiven.

On Sunday, I thought I lost the quarter. Now the quarter is not the key but it is important to me.The quarter is a talisman Soldier made for me in April. It is an ordinary quarter “engraved” with his initials. I found it Sunday night after I thought I had lost it. It is back on my nightstand, next to a wooden yellow bird Soldier bought me on Sunday. A villanelle I wrote for Soldier includes the line, “I wish I could wake to find you near.” My talisman and memento will have to do for now. Along with that invisible little bird that lives in my heart, my good old friend, hope.

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