I sat on a bus heading South on the 101 leaving Mendocino County, part of the “Emerald Triangle” known for growing some of the best weed in the world, five thousand dollars cash in my bag between my feet and The Commodores crooning about how it was easy in my earbuds. Yes! Yes, it certainly does feel easy! In fact, I had just been introduced to this underground culture and I felt renewed in my efforts to live life exactly how I wanted and that it could be easy.
Sure, I had just been trimming weed in an off-grid cabin in the woods and it wasn’t my dream to snip buds the rest of my life. And sure, the locals coined those who traveled cities, states and countries to get this seasonal job “trimmigrants,” and you could see the dissatisfaction spread across their faces as we infiltrated their grocery stores and bars with whimsical attitudes and dreadlocks. But to me, it was an extension of the Burning Man world with its rebels and revolutionaries who were each taking a stab at creating a life outside the status quo, and I. Was. Inspired. I remembered a perfect feeling again! I felt like a musical note, traveling through space, capable of touching the lives of millions. Unstoppable. My focus snapped back to the song playing in my ears — I wanna be free to know the things I do are right.
And just like that, in the rhythm of a four-count beat, I forgot that feeling and my heart fell heavy and this fairy tale I had been living in for the past two weeks splatted on the floor as the last note of Easy fell silent. I was on my way to see a man who threatened to be my boyfriend, but you see, I already had a husband. And we currently shared a boyfriend together. This other man whom I charged toward at a brisk fifty-five miles per hour aboard this Greyhound heading to the Bay Area was becoming an unrestrained force in my heart. A pulse quickening, life changing force that left no room for a husband and shared boyfriend. The song changed and I heard, Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. It’s not the love I’m running from, it’s the heartbreak I know will come. Damn if music isn’t impeccable with its timing, right? As I listened to the remainder of Nowhere to Run, I contemplated how a girl from Texas who was gonna marry the cowboy next door, and ended up marrying a preacher, got here.
But that’s arriving in the cart before the horses. So, let me rewind about ten years. In honor of full disclosure, I must admit that I instinctively scramble for the gigantic, fantastically imaginary fast forward button on life when approaching the second engagement and subsequent marriage territory. It was here just a second ago, I swear… I want to pass go, collect two hundred and jump to the part of the story where things go tits up, as they say. It’s easier to focus on those times. Doesn’t that seem to be the truth when one version of “perfect” ends? Look forward, stay the course. Because you can’t spell perfect with pain, right? Surely… well, here goes: the beginning to an extremely complicated perfectly.
My first engagement found me broke, 60 pounds heavier and self-ostracized from most of my friends. To say I felt broken was an understatement. Being financially dependent on my parents once again made the self-inflicted pressure to fold to their desires and follow their religious beliefs fall heavy on me. I had “drifted from the faith” the previous couple of years and my spiritual health had become their utmost concern. My childhood had been amazing, and I knew nothing else, so as engagement numero uno swirled down the drain, I began to attend church again.
The first night back, in walks this fashion forward, well-groomed clergyman. My interest was immediately peaked. I don’t remember an emotion, just knowing it was a draw. The omniscient voice tells me that I smelled a way out in him. We would do it together. That wasn’t for me to know at that time, though. I thought, I must hang out with him. If you believe in destiny, then this was it. I walked up to him after the service ended, handed him my number and said I wanted to hang out. Simple as that. What did I really have to lose?
He called and we got together a few days later. He wasn’t just a preacher, he was in college pursing a degree in art and he needed a subject for a project. He asked if I was willing to sit and be drawn. Of course! He was tasked with drawing a portrait but never lifting the pencil from the paper, nor taking his eyes off the subject. It probably took minutes to complete, but it felt like hours. We hardly spoke. We just stared at one another. Afterward we chatted, made future plans to work out together, grab dinner (we did, and he bashfully asked me to pay when his card was declined), and go to a devotional at the college. As I was leaving he said, “I just want you to know that I’m bisexual.” I said, “Cool,” and shut the door to his house.
Outwardly I took his confession nonchalantly, inwardly I was so grateful he confided in me. I don’t know if it was the vulnerable way we, as strangers, just sat silently staring at one another for our first hangout that established this level of, what I thought was, immediate and complete honesty. I do know that I wanted to be open and honest. I don’t think I had ever really been. Not really. I hid who I was with my friends in front of my family. I hid who I was with coworkers in front of church members and so on and so forth. I found the combination of his chosen profession and personal interests intriguing. I didn’t see how they could blend. But since I was spiritually seeking, I wanted to know how to reconcile my own dichotomous feelings. I saw him as a combination of familiar with a splash of forbidden and it hooked me.
We hung out every day after that. We laughed, we shared, we created art together. Photo shoots, paintings, midnight coffee house hang out sessions. We dreamed, we explored scary questions about our beliefs, we encouraged one another to chase our dreams. Three months in, he asked me to marry him. I told him I wasn’t even sure if we were dating. And we laughed. And I said yes because I loved him.
Love was never a question between us, but we were bound by more than love. We were bound in lessons, secured by comfort. We supported each other like siblings. It turns out that was key because a couple of years later we left our church and he, his mother and siblings became the only family I had for a time. But we did it. We got married in a castle, just as a fairy-tale marriage should begin.
My family was ecstatic that I married a preacher.