Dear San Diego,
Parker's in bed by ten. A glass of milk, her meds, a sleeping pill. She sleeps until eight or nine the next morning.
Unless I'm part of the crowd that scuffles out of The Mountain when it closes, I'm usually laying on the couch reading around two or three.
The one great thing about living with Parker is her accidental library. In some places there's books stacked against walls almost to the ceiling, in others they're arranged in various ways to act as makeshift furniture - like the square pile next to one of the chairs in the living room. Euclid is under one of the legs of the kitchen table.
We inherit almost all the books that Rusty gets downstairs because his mainstay is car parts, old lawnmowers, things like that. People drop books off at his shop and he just throws them on our doorstep. So we get a lot of crap - romance stuff, that sort of thing.
Not to disappoint Heine, but we usually burn those in the big syrup kettle we use as a fire pit up on the roof.
So I'm rereading Miller's Tropic Of Cancer. Not the best, not the worst, but necessary after my third round with The Gulag Archipelago.
I have a strange connection to Solzhenitsyn.
Years ago my mother was taking a ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver and while entering the cafeteria she noticed him sitting alone at a table. She was, as you'd imagine, flooded with emotion given what he'd been through in his life. They looked at one another but didn't say anything. My mom just walked up to him and put her hand on his arm.
That was it. All that need be done.
If I picked up anything in college it was that rereading things is a must. There's usually too much there to get the first time. I never finished school, and was never all that fond of Boston being a west coaster, but at least one life altering thing happened when I was there.
I met Parker.
Parker was at MIT and I was at Boston College. She was a introverted genius and I was an awkward Canadian that talked too much when nervous and felt out of place everywhere I went. The night I met her I had reluctantly gone with a few people to a restaurant in Cambridge. Parker was there eating alone. Her hair was a mess, she was wearing jeans that were too big for her, a big belt, an MIT sweatshirt, and flip flops.
Had she not been wearing that sweatshirt I'd never have seen her again.
I remember what she was wearing that night so well because even though I was there with people I wasn't paying attention to the conversation. I was uncomfortable, my leg bouncing uncontrollably under the table, everything too close and suffocating.
After turning my attention from the girl sitting alone eating, I spent the rest of the meal looking out the window trying to figure out why I ever thought it was a good idea to go to school on the east coast of the United States.
And that's when it happened.
I felt a hand on my knee.
Turning from my self pitying examination out the window, I found the girl in the MIT sweatshirt standing beside me, her hand pressing down on my knee, forcing my leg to stop bouncing.
She looked at me and said, "Don't do that."
I would spend almost three weeks tracking Parker down purely on the hunch that she went to MIT because of that sweatshirt. After she'd said what she did that night she'd just left without saying anything else.
When I finally found her she was walking across University Park Commons. I'd basically given up and was standing at a bus stop on Sidney Street. Seeing her I sort of froze and a million things went through my head. Was I a stalker? Why was finding her so important?
There are moments in life when decisions are made that don't seem to be of significant gravity at the time, as in you don't think they'll have repercussions that'll echo into the decades ahead. I don't know why I needed to meet her, just at the time, given where my head was at, it seemed overwhelmingly important.
When I met Parker that day there was no awkwardness, no judgements. It was if she had been waiting for me to come.
We sat on the grass and she looked at me with a smile on her face that, even now, I can see as if it were a moment ago. She doesn't smile like that anymore, but the memory of it gets me through the rough days.
She said to me that day, "You and I will be the ones without secrets."
Twenty five years later, as basically her caregiver, those words hold true.
I am often asked by people why I've now spent years living with her, taking care of her, putting up with her. Why I haven't left, or why I don't just put her somewhere and get on with my life.
My answer is always the same.