James Michael Bush: Eat, Play, Write, Travel

Dance Your Cares Away

I am a happily married man. Somehow, the love of my life also fell in love with me and made all of my dreams come true. She is the mother of my children and the final puzzle piece to my heart. I have two sons that mean the world to me. Being their dad is the greatest, hardest, and most frustrating thing I’ve ever done. And I would change none of this. There is not one decision that I or anyone else made during the course of my life that I would risk changing because it might alter this eventual outcome.

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t love before Merissa. She may be the most important woman to ever enter my life, but I would be lying if I said that she was my first infatuation. There were other girls I loved, true… but not women. I feel the need to point out that the other objects of my affection were all during my childhood. Merissa and I fell in love as kids and became adults together, which is part of what makes us such a badass team. But, yes, before she came onto the scene there were others. And one of those was Katie.

Katie Hinds was this short and incredibly cute hippie that lived just down the street from my childhood home. We met in high school, both being members of the unofficially dubbed “Not So Cool Kids Club.” This meant we had many of the same friends and so, as luck would have it, we grew closer together. We had such different tastes in everything; music, movies, books, food… just about everything there was to agree about, we disagreed about it. But I loved the shit out of that girl. I can’t explain it. And it’s not the same as the love that we, as adults, have with our partners. It was that teenage super obsessive desire. It wasn’t sexual. It wasn’t romantic. It was just a connection, and a hope that the feelings were reciprocated. This hippie was someone that really understood the fat, awkward, asshole I used to be.

Katie adored me. Don’t you worry about that. She loved me as much as I love her. But, her love for me was akin to a that of a relative; a brother or maybe a very close cousin. She didn’t want to kiss me underneath the stars, you know? And, while it hurt like hell to know that, I was ok with being her friend. I just loved her that much. I never told her that I wanted her to be mine because I knew with absolute certainty how Katie felt about me. It wouldn’t be fair to trouble her with my teenage boyhood crush when I knew she wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship. I had already made that mistake with another of my crushes. So, I just relegated my self to the role of cool dude and rad friend. It was neither the first nor the last time I would experience unrequited teenage love.

But the friendship we developed was fantastic. She used to call me and ask me to sneak out and come to her house. She would meet me in her driveway and we would smoke cigarettes under the stars. She would ask me to dance with her in the street without music. Because she was such a short little lady, Katie would stand on my feet as we slow danced to the silence of the night in the middle the road.

Years passed and I watched her make mistakes. But it wasn’t my place to tell her what to do or how to live. I had finally found the one who would be my wife, and we were happy together. But I still worried over Katie and the choices she made. More time went by and I felt like she was finally happy. Marriage, kids, and moving out west seemed to do well for her. We talked sometimes via Facebook. She seemed content.

More years passed and I moved out of the country. Katie and I grew further apart both geographically and verbally. Our communication was all but nonexistent for a long time. Then one day, she reached out to me again on Facebook. We started chatting away like the old days. She told me about some rough shit she had gone through, and I could tell just by the tone of her messages that Katie had changed a good deal. This short little giant had struggled for a long time with various substances and bad people, and she had admitted it all to me. But she was still that adorable muppet who wouldn’t think twice about calling you out for being a dick or a liar. Katie still adored the Beatles and Tom Waits unapologetically. And she was still so loveably weird. I was ecstatic to have her as a friend once more.

Then I woke up today to the news that Katie passed away just yesterday in Seattle. The news hit me harder than I would have thought. Thinking back on the friendship we’ve had for so long… on the school dances we attended together, the private dances we shared in the moonlight, and the laughter we gave each other… I was devastated. Living abroad has it ups and downs, that is true. But when you lose a friend and cannot be there to be a part of the mourning process and to truly say goodbye, that is when you realize how selfish international living seems. I started looking back at our more recent talks, and saw that the last thing she ever said to me was, “Goodnight, Mikey. Goodnight, moon.” I admit to losing my shit and bawling my eyes out upon reading that. My wife held me as I cried in our kitchen, showing me how much she loved me by letting me weep about another woman, who I once loved when she was only a girl.

I’m not sad that Katie and I never got together, as my life has worked out exactly like I wanted. I only hope that Katie also felt the same before she passed on; I hope she felt happy and had little to no regrets. I’ll miss you so much, Doozer. I’ll miss your goofy smile, your unusual sense of humor, your mouth with no filter, and your bad taste in music (wink, wink).

Goodnight, Katie. Goodnight, moon.

The last photo Katie posted online. She took it for her Grandmother.

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