“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
– Roald Dahl
This story begins in 2002, when I was 21 years old. I was sitting in a parking lot of an office park in Southeast Austin, hanging out with friends and a new boyfriend who had just returned from a long road trip to Mexico. I was sitting on the hood of an old Bronco, drinking beers in the afternoon sunlight of a hot Texas day. I finished a beer and a tall and lanky fellow grabbed my empty, scooted off, and returned with a full one for me. This is how I met Cody Creech.
We hung out a lot in those days, that group of friends, partying and eating dinner at each other’s houses. Cody had started his tattoo shop and it had been painted by his friend Jason with desert and alien scenes in plaster. Two years later, I received my first tattoo from Cody: a cicada to mark the 14 year cicada brood of 2004. It was the largest brood of cicadas in many a year, and the cicada, traditionally, was a symbol of wisdom and morality. I was graduating from college soon and also getting married. When I got married, to that same boyfriend who was so new two years before, we held a wedding on a shoestring budget of $5000. We got married at a sculpture garden and had the reception in our backyard. We rented chairs to sit on, and couldn’t afford to get chairs in both locations. I remember talking to Cody about our conundrum, and he and a friend of his managed to find a truck, load the chairs, move them to the reception and set them up for us before we got there.
Cody had been dating a woman and they ended up pregnant with a son who was also born in 2004. I remember talking to Cody about becoming a father and the stress of that on top of a new business. I remember that he was dedicated to his little boy, even before he was born, and had drawn his ultrasound in white pencil on a black background and hung it up in the shop.
Soon thereafter, my husband and I moved to Mexico, and before we left, I went to Cody’s shop and dropped off some fish for his fish tank and my prized Ludisia discolor, a jewel orchid that I loved very much. I thought it would look good in the shop and knew he would take care of it. We lived in Mexico for about a year, and then moved to New York briefly before returning to Austin in the early days of 2006. We lived in an apartment before buying our friend’s house in East Austin. We had had many parties at that house, with that same group of friends who had, long ago now, been on that trip to Mexico.
When we returned, Cody and I started on a giant tattoo project that originally was supposed to be very small. He tattooed my heart on my sleeve and surrounded it with growing apple branches and rosemary, for remembrance. At the time, I was working way too hard and long at a very difficult school, and was swamped with work and responsibilities. My marriage was not going as smoothly as I had hoped, as we couldn’t really communicate through problems and my husband was having trouble figuring out what he wanted to do. I was overcompensating and taking care of everything, and the toll of the stress of it all impacted our home life in palpable ways. Over time, we grew apart. Over time, Cody and I worked on that tattoo, coloring it after a couple of years of black and white. Once, we went to have dinner at a taqueria on the side of 290, a crazy stucco place that looks like a space pod, and then I sat in his shop all night grading papers while he drew up the final details of the tattoo.
Cody moved shops sometime around 2007 I think, to a great new space in the heart of downtown. I was proud of him and excited for him; he was going through a lot but still maintained his philosophy of love and care and compassion despite the stresses of his daily and home life. He was struggling with the details of life, but remained stalwart and kind. I always enjoyed our time together and our deep talks.
By 2009, my marriage had fallen apart and ended, and we had sold that house that had held so many parties with our loved ones and friends. I was living in a tiny house in Hyde Park, and Cody and I were still working on that dang tattoo; adding color here and there, but mostly, our tattoo sessions were long talks that lasted hours and the tattooing was pretty minimal.
On New Years Eve of 201q, my friends Rodi and Lyndsy and I were invited to a party and arrived not knowing anyone, but armed with a giant bottle of Bulleit Bourbon, succeeded in meeting many people. We were all smoking outside at one point, and Cody happened to be sitting on the porch, smoking as well. It had been a while since I had seen him and was very happy to see his face and listen to his funny stories about what was new in his life. At midnight, we were inside the living room, drunk and in the half light of the Christmas lights, and I kissed him, immediately remembered I had a boyfriend, and we laughed and he said it was ok. Somehow we missed each other in the goodbye phase of the evening, and I didn’t see him again.
In early 2011, I decided to leave Austin for points North. I couldn’t deal with the memory bombs of my present, felt ashamed for many decisions I had made, and decided to make a geographical change to see if it would help. Off I went, in a giant truck, for Philadelphia and to begin what would be the hardest year of my life.
Time passed, and in the interim, I would often think of him because I saw his art on my arms every day. I came back to visit in the fall of 2012 and tried to find him, but didn’t. I think that his shop had been sold out from underneath him, and for whatever reason, during that week, we didn’t find each other to catch up and talk about the world in which we found ourselves. I stayed in Maine, always wanting to go to Austin but afraid to make the trip that I feared would be fraught with the pain of the past. That is, afraid until about two months ago, when I bit the bullet and bought a ticket south.
Turns out that everyone I love had kept moving and working, just as I had. Turns out that Austin had grown and changed and was full with what seemed like ten times the amount of people that were there when I left. Turns out that facing the past meant that it didn’t mean as much anymore, and I was able to enjoy myself and my time with my friends and my time in the beautiful Texas sunshine. Turns out that I missed it, a lot, and realized that maybe my homesickness meant more than I had thought. Two of my best friends, for the last three years, have asked me to come home, and I militantly said no. I said no out of fear and out of a sense of “you gotta make it wherever you are”, but when I was home, seeing everyone so productive and motivated and happy, I realized that I missed that spirit and those feelings.
On Monday morning, I was texting friends to see who was around at the awful time of 7 in the morning. I thought of Cody, not even knowing if his phone number was still the same. I texted him that I was in town and wanted to see him. Immediately he texted me back, saying “what? you’re here? I’ll call you later when it gets closer to quittin’ time”. I thought, maybe he will, maybe he will forget, but, being Cody, he didn’t and called me right at 5:30. We talked for an hour and then he came over to pick me up so that we could go and cook dinner at the farm where he is now living in Southwest Austin, out on the road to Driftwood. He showed me around the farm, I hung out with his roommates and their dogs, and we talked the whole time, cooking pasta in the tiny kitchen of his trailer, drinking beers and laughing and talking about philosophy and belief systems and what was going on in life. Later, we were outside in the gardens, looking at the stars, and I told him a little about Philly, but mostly about how I loved the stars and could see the same constellations from the top of my driveway. He laughed and said how glad he was that I was there, and I said the same thing. He hugged me, and I him, and he asked me if I remembered kissing him on New Years five years ago. I said yes, and that I was sorry and that I was really drunk. He said he’d been thinking about it for five years and would I like to kiss him, again. I said yes.
A couple of days later, hanging out in his trailer, I had my hand on his heart and his on mine. A day or so before, we had talked about how we had always liked each other but never could do anything about it due to life circumstances, but that we had a lot of love for each other and truly loved the other one. In that moment, while he was wearing an orange shirt and standing in the doorway of his kitchen, he said to me “this is so great!” and I said, “this IS so great.” In that moment, I recognized a sense of love that I didn’t really understand until right then. I realized that the cliche of “when you find the person, you will know” was absolutely right, and that I wanted to be with this person, this gentle, strong, stubborn, beautiful and quirky person, always. I wanted to hold his hand to my heart and his to mine for a long, long time.
Over the next week, we spent as much time with each other as we could, talking about what to do and how to be together, and how neither of us had had an experience quite like this before. We went and got tacos one day and I told him I was nervous because I liked him so much. He pressed me to give more details. He told me he didn’t know what to do since I live in Maine and he in Texas. I told him that, in my opinion, once you find the person, all the other stuff is just details. He asked me if that was really how I felt, and I said yes, and he said the same thing but that he had been worried that I was just going to go back to Maine and forget about him. I told him that people like him hardly ever come around, if at all, and that I loved him and wasn’t going anywhere.
Soon, after my week of enlightening experiences, facing the past, seeing the present, and being inspired by my wonderful family of friends, I had decided to come back to Austin for the winter. Long have I tried to become friends with Maine winter, and this year, she just plumb beat me with all the snow and the dark. I decided to be a snowbird. Late one night, in the airstream trailer that is fast becoming a greenhouse, we were laying around and I told him about my plan. He offered to come and help me move in the fall, and I said, “you would do that?”. He told me that there was very little that he wouldn’t do for me.
So here we are: in love and about 2000 miles apart, for the moment. But as he said, after five years, another six months just doesn’t matter. Oh yeah, and that Ludisia discolor that I had given to him ten years ago now resides in the kitchen window of his roomate’s house, blooming like crazy in the sunlight. He had macramed a pot holder for it and given it to his roommates. He said to me, “see? You’ve been here the whole time!”So my lesson in this, lovely readers, is that you never know what might happen when, after some serious soul searching in a new place, you go home and see an old friend in the early spring in central Texas.
I think it was about dang time for a love story here, don’t you?