Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Last Wyoming Days

I never imagined ever loving a place so much I wouldn’t want to leave. I escaped Ohio with a velocity that stalled out many times, always returning to that dismal state because that’s where I was from, that’s where my family ate, worked, slept, played.

Four years ago, stuck in dead end jobs—gas station clerk, pizza delivery driver, and trying to find people to pay me for web design—I made a decision: to return to school, to get my master’s. I thought I’d go to school in Ohio. Wright State, Ohio State, anywhere within driving distance, and my wife looked at me one evening and said, “What about the University of Wyoming?”

“What about the University of Wyoming?” I asked back.

Years ago, my wife drove cross country in her red Cavalier to a Jackson Hole lodge to work as a receptionist. On a day off work, she made it to Laramie, visited the University, and fell in love. She said on that drive out in her mid-twenties—an age really too old to work at a lodge and yet too young to have a decent job—layers of stress peeled off her skin like peeling onions down to their cores.
The return trip for her, how many years later, was not as restorative, with two kids and after having sold everything we owned except what we could manage to cram into a Ford Escort with a smashed front end thanks to a deer and untreated sleep apnea, and the Ford Windstar van with a cracked rear axle and a tail pipe attached with bailing wire neither of which we knew anything about because the dealer said it had all been fixed for us. We never looked underneath the van to really find out because we didn’t really want to know. We were driving to an apartment we had never seen before, and when we arrived the university housing felt like a hotel room, temporary and demanding with crazy strict rules like no drinking alcoholic beverages outside, no grills, no pets—never mind the cracked vinyl blinds, the crumbling dry wall, the bedroom doors without locks. This place became home. I looked out my kitchen window and saw mountains. I drove down the road to drop the kids off at school or dance or any number of activities, and I saw mountains.

The people we met, we will never forget. The support for what we were trying to accomplish out here, what we did accomplish out here was amazing. My wife and I walked together at graduation. She received her bachelor’s in English with a creative writing minor and a professional writing minor. I got my master’s. She was accepted to the University of New Hampshire MFA program, and in a few days we will drive across country one more time. It feels like an exodus. We are packing through the night. We are rushing to leave a place we do not want to leave.

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