Hill One

The last time I had sex was with my dying husband. It was sometime in September 2016, about a month before he died. It was easy to see past his deteriorating state, as we always knew exactly how to please each other, and we still fit together perfectly. Instinct took over with the synchronized movements of our bodies and an unspoken “this is probably the last time” whispered in the back of my head all at once. Everything about Jon was shrinking and wasting away. Ironically, his manhood did not. Throughout the last weeks of his care, my gaze would bounce between his eyes that bore into my soul, to his most familiar parts seemingly untouched by his disease. I had committed these things to memory a long time ago, but now they were my last tethers to the man I first fell in love with. The man who told me time and time again that he wanted to crawl under my skin so he could be as close as possible to me. The desire and passion we shared are the things I miss the most. I need to be wanted like that, it’s what makes me whole.

Love itself has many expressions and forms. I can say “I love my life, I love ice cream, I love my kids,” you get the idea. But there are new love lessons from the death of your committed partner that are only revealed to you, the one left behind. This is the result of love interrupted by death. The love didn’t stop, but the life it was for did. My most prominent love lesson after Jon’s death is having learned the difference between ‘love’ and being ‘in love’. Jon was my only mind fuck (in a good way) for over 20 years, and now that he’s gone, it is in my mind without him that has taken me to this new place of being. My new insight causes me to evaluate people differently, and I worry that others do not understand what I see or get my point of view. I clearly see limits and rules of other people about what they love, how much and who they love. My designer-brain thinking has me outlining solutions to other people’s love problems that they may not even know they have. It saddens me to see their walls, and I see most people are in a box they alone have placed themselves in most times. I do not have these limitations. I do not have walls, corners, obstacles, and I am definitely not in a box. My universe is ever expanding. And so I float weightless, and a beacon of love calls to me, seranading it’s wanting me to be ‘in love.’ Like in my dreams, I’m swimming in air, but I can’t go fast enough, and I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.

As a part of their Spring Carnival, Carnegie Mellon University has a most unusual tradition. It’s called Buggy — Buggy Races to be exact. Probably thousands of hours are dedicated by each team to the engineering and building of small one-person-steered go carts, which are propelled by ‘pushers’ throughout the hilly course to hopeful victory and eternal bragging rights. Being in Pittsburgh, there are some seriously steep hills on that course! I was the relay pusher for Hill One. This was the starting point, the most difficult, because Hill One is an all-up-hill-from-zero attempt. My role was to receive the Buggy mid-hill and at full sprint, push through to the hill’s crest, and at the right moment propel the Buggy with a huge release to the first downhill. There was lots of past-midnight course training, weight-lifting, and visualization to prepare for race day. A music major friend and I even formulated a palindrome pace needed to achieve my max running speed. Race day. All went as a planned, it was perfect. What we did not expect was the fact that my tremendous push placed our Buggy in line with another which was cutting across the lanes. The buggies had a mild collision followed by skillful course correction of our driver. Our team was able to finish the race, but victory was not ours that day. Even after all my preparation, I learned there are some things I couldn’t prepare for, and what happens after I let go is sometimes not in my control. Things out of my control be damned, I will never give up my preparation and attempts to achieve victory (and bragging rights) in anything I do. ~Paula

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