Everlasting true love insists on tragedy, consuming the fuel of its own passion, but inevitably and always eventually diluted by the quotidian trio of negligence, jealousy and circumstance. Everything any of us want to believe about love we’ve lazily cribbed from tortured poets or car commercials. In those fantasies, there are no bills, snotty noses, bad bosses, rabid ex-spouses, illness or unrelenting loss.
And yet, I still found myself on a summer day in 1998 in the parking lot of Grandma Hoffy’s on Route 26, near Madras, Oregon. The brutal beauty of columnar basalt and obsidian had been enveloped by sagebrush and dusky painted hills. But even my favorite landscapes could not calm my churning nerves that afternoon. Sixteen months had passed.
Did we eat? How long did we talk? Was there coffee? Pie? Surely, at a truck stop there must have been pie, yet I remember almost nothing. We smoked, I know that, furtively. For better or worse, I wrote the words down in the parking lot after we parted.
Here are a few of those words starting after the nervous hellos, coffee-ordering and what-not. We got to the point quickly.
Sooner or later, you’ll say yes and it will be forever.
Can we try something else first?
Like what? I don’t do things halfway.
Maybe we should write a book together. I want to write. You already do. A test of sorts.
A trial run?
If we can write a book together without killing each other, seems like we may have a chance.
A romantic novel.
I don’t know. Write what you know.
How to be a cowboy.
I can take that part easy. What do you know?
The Cowboy and the Politician?
The Cowboy and Eleanor Roosevelt?
Let’s step back, if it’s going to be about love…
Okay, our love, sure, well, how does a cowboy feel about love?
Being with you means giving up a way of life.
You think the city will suck you dry and toss you back lifeless.
Something like that.
Like a Vampire.
Yea, like a Vampire.
That night, he started writing. He mailed the first pages to me. I edited, and then added a few more. I mailed them back to him. The first two chapters were written that way. We were married a year later in Washington DC with a finished novel. The Cowboy had moved to the city.
That was 1998. So much has happened.
Are we still writing? Yes.
Are we still in love? Most days.
Amazing what a bit of shared storytelling can do for one’s love life. It saved us.
Check out the Ballad of the Cowboy and Vampire, read at our wedding.