the beginning

March 27th, 1984. Spring quarter begins at a college in a small town, trees are becoming green, the wind blowing through them, fresh grass fills the air. I am dressed in my new white pants with colorful stripes, a shirt and vest and boots. Walking to class from my off-campus apartment with my roommate Kurt, I think to myself how nice it is to be here again after Spring Break. I feel refreshed. I just want to concentrate on school this final quarter. I want no ties to anyone. No boyfriends. Just freedom. I will concentrate on getting good grades. I feel clear and happy as I walk into my first class, Biology that I am retaking for a better grade. I took it as a freshman, but it being an 8am class and me not being a morning person didn't mesh well. Somehow that extra sleep and my D+ lead me here, like Fate.

I am holding my books, smiling and Kurt feels the need to tell me that I might want to rethink the blush I'm wearing because it's sparkly in the sunshine. So, I am glad when we part and I walk toward the Science building and into the auditorium. I randomly scan the partially full class quickly and since it is exactly 9:00 and time for class to begin, I just plop quickly into an open seat on the side of the front row. We all sit there for a bit and begin to get antsy when the teacher doesn't show up. Someone comes in a few minutes in and tells us that Tuesdays are Lab days, and there is no lecture on those days. We only have to show up in the evenings in the lab room. So we all walk out and I head to the Drama building where my next class is, stopping to wait at a bench in the courtyard and let the early Spring sun bathe my face.

Little did I know that my soulmate and life partner was in that same class. He came in on lab day too. And the seat I randomly chose to sit in was right by him. And although I didn't notice him at all, or anyone else in class for that matter, he noticed me. He watched me as I walked in. He can tell you to this day what I was wearing and how I looked. And he was so sure about what he felt in that second that he went back to his dormroom afterward and announced to his roommate Andre that he had just met the girl he was going to marry. He never told me this; Andre was the one to tell me weeks later.

Wednesday morning, on the way to class, I informed Kurt that he could keep his commentary on how I looked to himself because nothing was going to ruin my day. He just smiled and rolled his eyes. It made me laugh. And with that, he bolted off to his class because we were running late again. I made it to Biology just before the door shut, but this time class was totally packed and I slipped into the first open seat I saw. Thursday, same thing. Something seemed familiar about the person I was sitting next to, but I just took notes as we went over the syllabus and began lecture.

Friday. Repeat of the previous days, getting to class at the nick of time (my forte I must admit), but this time I was absolutely sure I was sitting next to the same guy I had been sitting next to the day before. And maybe even the day before that, if that's even possible, I thought. Was I really choosing the seat next to the same person four days in a row? Little did I know, although Fate took care of the first day when I plopped into the first seat I saw, Chuck - who is my total opposite in the procrastination department and gets everywhere exhaustively early - took the next days into his own hands and saved the open seat next to him hoping that I would be late and pick that seat. Which I did.

I smiled up at him, checking him out. He smiled back. As if he already knew me, as if he could see through into every thought I had. Like he had been watching me. Him sitting in the cool dark auditorium, and me out in the sunlight coming in looking around for a seat and walking straight toward him as if he willed it. As if he willed me to look up at him today finally.

After class, I walked to the Drama building for my next class like always, but as if a magnet was pulling me, I looked back to see if I could see him, and there he was, looking back at me. He was wearing Levis with a plain white t-shirt a jean jacket and white Nike's with a red stripe, tall and muscular. Gorgeous wavy auburn hair. His big brown eyes were mesmerizing. He wasn't smiling, but seriously looking at me as I was walking away, and I felt like a lightening bolt had hit me. Not through the heart, but in my solar plexus and then through my whole body. It was totally insane. My belly did a flip. And somehow I turned again, and walked away.

Kurt and I always drove back to our hometown on weekends because it's only 3 hours away, and it's funner than sticking around campus, especially during the nicer weather. There were toga parties and friends to hang with. So I didn't see Chuck again until Monday when I deliberately sat next to him in that deliberately saved open seat. He said Hi because he saw me making the choice this time, looking for him, at him. How was your weekend? I asked. And he started to tell me, as I am looking right at his lips, unable to look away, just as the Prof started yammering on about mitosis or something completely uninteresting all of a sudden.

And that promise I made to myself? The one where I was happy being alone and definitely not having a boyfriend to just simply enjoy Spring quarter and Ace all my classes? At that moment, it flew right out the window where the birds were singing in the trees.

After class, we gathered our stuff together and he walked me out. He asked how my weekend was, picking up my line effortlessly. I told him it was fine, that I went home. He asked where that was, and when I told him he said he'd been there with a friend from his swim team who also lived there. He told me he was from Alaska, and that he had a new motorcycle that he'd just gotten before Spring Break. I smiled because I loved riding in the warm weather and he was so happy at this reaction, he asked if I wanted to go for a ride sometime and without thinking, I said yes.

And then there, at the entrance of my class, he leaned in and I looked up into brown eyes that I could get lost in, that I felt I had known forever, my heart pounding all of a sudden. Softly he asked my name and I answered Toye, and without skipping a beat or asking me "what?" like virtually every other person in the world says when I say my name, he just holds my gaze and tells me his name is Chuck. That electric feeling in my solar plexus hits me again. Lightening. And then he breaks away, turning to go down the stairs, and as I come out of my stupor he turns again and says, This might sound a little presumptuous, but do you have tickets to the Huey Louis concert? It was being held at our school in a week and a half, and I said No and he asked if I'd like to go. I said sure for lack of an excuse or time to think of anything but those big open brown eyes, and he smiled and turned and left.

The next day, he asked me to go for a motorcycle ride with him that afternoon around the canyon. It was cool and crisp and sunny. My arms were around his waist as we flew around the corners. He held his muscular arm in his leather coat over mine in the most strongly protective and yet amazingly loving way I have ever felt. His touch was like fire. And also so cool and familiar, like home. We stopped at the Taco Time for a soda afterward. My carefully applied mascara dripped all over my face and he just smiled and told me I looked beautiful anyway. Completely and utterly embarrassed, I went to the bathroom to fix it. But also somehow I knew that it didn't matter in the slightest because for whatever reason, he thought I was the most beautiful and perfect thing on the planet and that alone made me feel beautiful too. He took me back to my apartment and then home after Lab that evening too. I was happy. Went to bed happy, woke up completely happy and energized.

Wednesday after class, I went to his dorm room and met Andre, and his other friends there. He put on music and showed me our concert tickets. He watched me intently as I moved around the room. I could feel it and I was unsure and self conscious, but I also felt he was amused and intrigued by what I did and said. I was still shy around him and didn't want to look directly into his eyes again, he was different. He could hold my gaze easily without breaking it. He wanted me to look at him, so he could see me and know that I could see him too. It was the most unusual feeling ever. Like all the pretense and game playing in the world couldn't stop the truth from flowing between us like electricity. I wanted to do it, but I had spent a lifetime putting those blocks up, and I knew with one look or touch, he could break them all down.

What the hell was this? I wondered. I'd been in love before, I knew the drill. But this? Nothing in my past could I relate it to. And come on, it had only been a few days. Hours, really, that we had been together. It was insane. We hadn't even kissed yet for chrissakes. At that moment, he looked at me and said Do I get a kiss? My belly did a flip. Do you want one? I asked flustered to high heaven. He was already leaning in. He didn't touch me, he let me attempt to get my bearings and be the one to kiss him first. This might have amused him actually. To know that I did it first. I gave him a quick peck. You know, like a friend would. He just smiled at me. He took my hand and brought me home.

Thursday after class, we talked easily. He told me that he was going to Yakima that afternoon and probably woudn't be in class the next morning because he would spend the night with his friend there. I told him that I'd see him on Monday then because Kurt and I were going home for the weekend again, as usual. We were kind of holding hands, fingers entwined lightly and as I turned to go and our hands parted, still touching, he pulled me back around as if he wanted to look at me one last time then. He smiled. Not if I come back tonight, he whispered. My blue eyes looking into his brown ones. Lightening. I walked straight up to him then and kissed him. Really kissed him this time. He was shocked and amused at the same time, and then relaxed and really kissed me back. Done, I thought then. I am so done. He was the best kisser, ever.

Friday, he was in class. I was surprised, I honestly thought he wouldn't be there. He asked me if I was really leaving him for the whole weekend. I'd already packed and was leaving early right after Drama, and said yes. He stopped by our apartment to say goodbye, but I was still in class and Kurt picked me up at campus and didn't even tell me this until we were over the pass. The whole weekend all I wanted to do was get back to school.

Monday morning couldn't come fast enough. In class we sat closer and he came over in the afternoon and we played cribbage and kissed. A lot. He didn't call that night like he usually did, and Tuesday, with no actual class, only lab, he met me as I was going into the Drama building. He seemed distant. He finally said I don't know how you feel, but I like you very much. I just stared at him because the way he said it wasn't like he had usually been. It was much more closed and guarded. I didn't know what to do with this. He continued, But I don't want to get serious. I want to do things together, but nothing heavy. I was totally in shock and unsure of everything and all I could do was nod my head and say, Sure, that's fine. He gave me back that first friendly peck kiss and walked away.

Being a girl, I spent the rest of the day until Lab analyzing what the hell could possibly be going on. Maybe he had some other girlfriend. Lord knows I had an ex-boyfriend back home that was ready to pounce. And another guy from high school who was going to the same college that I had dated briefly during the end of Winter quarter was still trying to hang around too. But I didn't give a crap. I was so entranced with whatever this new thing was that was taking over my thoughts and dreams and every waking minute, opening up feelings that I never knew existed that none of that mattered. Maybe I had been wrong. Maybe he didn't feel what I had thought I'd felt him feeling. That was the big thing right there. We were totally in tandem for a while; feeling what each other was feeling. Reading each other's minds and hearts and the biggest, most amazing part of it all was that I knew he was feeling what I was feeling too. I could feel it radiating through the ether like sunlight.

I couldn't figure it out. I even talked to Kurt about it, sort of. He was no help whatsoever. Kurt had seemed totally annoyed that I was going through this and ignoring him most of the time too. He did drive me to class that evening after dinner though. He drove his Monte Carlo right up next to the motorcycle Chuck had just pulled in on where he was pulling off his helmet. I hit Kurt in the arm so hard and he just laughed. God, I was so embarrassed having to get out right there as if I'd asked Kurt to do that when all I really wanted was to go into Lab alone and find a new freaking lab partner. So not cool. But Chuck said hi and we walked into the building together and as fate would have it, just as Chuck stopped at the Coke machine to get a soda, an old friend from high school came up and put his arm around me, was happy to see me, and talked animatedly about a party at home that coming weekend. It was perfect. We didn't talk much through lab, but he did give me a ride home and kissed me goodbye. He seemed to be melting a little. I couldn't bring myself to ask him what was really up.

Wednesday, he didn't show up for class. No phone call. Zip. He had gone up to Yakima again and spent the night, I guess. I was trying not to think about him after that. So, after class on Thursday, when he grabbed me because I bolted the heck out of there like lightening so I didn't have to see or talk to him, I was surprised. Everything about him changed again. He was wide open. I was closed as all hell, but he was standing there in the weather holding my arm, his hair curling from the misty rain, eyelashes so long they looked like stars around his big brown sparkling eyes, questioning, pulling me in. Willing me to stop being mad, to see through him again. He loosened his grip and softly pulled me to him, as if nothing and no one else were around. The rain falling. He said to me then, I have been having some issues in Yakima. All I could do was try not to cry, my heart was so full at that moment, like a release. Every part of me for the last two days had wanted this to happen and I pictured me telling him to take a flying leap, but in this very moment all I could do was say, I hope you're okay. And I wanted to hold him and make sure that he was. I put my hand on his heart then. My pulse feeling his heartbeat. One. It steadied me. It filled him. He breathed out, grateful. I am now, he whispered.

I tried to tell him that we didn't have to go to the concert that night if it wasn't right for him, and he looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. No way, he said. I have been waiting to take you out long enough, I am not going to wait any longer. We both laughed then. He picked me up and we went back to his room where he had drinks and candles set up before the concert and for afterward too. My stomach was flipping out. He kissed me and said Remember what I said the other day about us just being friends? I said yes and he said, Well, forget it! And we toasted to that. The concert was so much fun, and later, we just held hands and talked. Kissed a lot again. His roommate was there, so we went for a walk in the moonlight. Then he gave me a ride home on his motorcycle. It was very sweet. I was still holding back though. I had one more weekend to go home, there was a party for my sister's birthday and I had to go. He wanted me to stay because he knew he was going to be leaving in a few short months back up to Alaska. Which was part of the reason he said he didn't want to get serious. But both of us really had no choice in the matter. We knew it was all over.

Monday, April 16th, 1984. We didn't spend one day apart after that until the day in mid-June after finals, after we'd both packed everything up, after we'd spent months learning about every part of each other, remembering. Feeling more at home than we'd ever been in this life, living in some kind of universally magical cocoon. We spent every minute together until the moment he got on his motorcycle to ride his bike up the Al-Can to Alaska to work for the summer. I followed him in my car to the top of the pass as it turned from sunshine to rain, where he pulled over to put on his raingear, and he was surprised to see me. He was so happy. The night before, we were sitting on the couch just inside of his dorm, people coming and going, packing and moving. All the hustle around us, but neither of us could see anything but the other. He told me again all the reasons he wanted me to remember him over the summer. He reminded me that we'd married ourselves under the stars a few weeks before. He held me next to his heart and put his hands in my hair and told me I was his everything, that he would never love anyone else, and that he'd dreamed of me and wished for me and couldn't believe that I was here and real. I told him I had never felt anything like this before and that I have always been his, and we both cried. Tears streaming down our faces and he took his finger and touched my tear and held it to his lips. How I am ever going to let you go tomorrow? he asked me then, echoing exactly what I was feeling, like he always did. Like he still does now. So on the top of the mountain then, in the pouring rain, we kissed goodbye again. And even though our bodies would be separated many times after that, and even sometimes our minds and hearts were too - our souls never were.