She and I hadn’t been dating long, if you could call what we were doing dating. We were mostly dancing around the issue. We were close enough that if we started dating someone else, we would have to answer for it. But we were apart enough that if one of us heard the other make any sort of reference to a relationship or boyfriend or girlfriend that would be quite newsworthy indeed. There was sort of the concern that the instant it became formal, rather than answering questions it would just bring up a lot more. Okay, so we’re dating. Are we going to get married? If so, when? If not, why not? If so, why not already? One of us believed that we could have a long, and permanent future together. The other wasn’t so sure and to make things even more complex wasn’t even sure why they weren’t sure. Both were everything that the other was looking for and then some. It was sort of like when you’re sitting on a runway and the guy on the intercom is telling you that you’re going to have to sit on the runway for a while as they wait for things to open up a bit. You look out the window and everything looks fine. No planes anywhere in sight. You assume that there has got to be something out there obstructing the schedule take off, but you can’t see exactly what it is.
But mostly we acted as couples act. We saw movies together, spent considerable amount of time at one another’s place, and were frankly closer than to some people I had actually dated.
Given the comfortable nature of things, it came as a bit of a surprise when she rather suddenly announced that she was leaving. “Leaving?” I asked. I wanted to ask what she would have been leaving, but therein lied the murky terrain we had avoided. Leaving Colosse, it turned out. Leaving Delosa. Where to? She gave the name of a western state that I had never given much thought to. Why would she move there, I wondered. She’s not even Mormon. Even if she was leaving Colosse, leaving the city, leaving the south, I could understand. But what the heck was out there?
Of course, she’d caught me in a bit of a trap. I couldn’t ask what this meant about “us” because there was no “us”. But the us that wasn’t was obviously going to be not in a formal manner contrary to the way that actually were. When I previously said that “we” avoided the subject, I was half using the royal “we”. I was the one avoiding the subject and she avoided the subject because I was avoiding it and, up until she decided to move out west, what were weren’t before was preferable than the weren’t we might be if she pushed too hard. Ironically, to the extent that there were specific reasons as to why we weren’t, it had to do with the fact that she was the type of person to suddenly decide to move out west. But I couldn’t articulate that at that moment because it seemed rather selfish to start bringing up the subject that I was avoiding as she was about to depart and then use her departure as a reason not to have what we didn’t have that might have kept her from departing. If said, something like that could actually prevent her from departing, which I wasn’t sure was a bad idea.
If my wording on all this lies in the land of the frivolous along the border of nonsensical, that’s because the state of affairs at the time had about the same degree of logic affixed to it. I’ll start speaking English now.
Not then she announced that she was leaving and it was no longer frivolous. If I asked her to stick around, or even more wildly offered to go with her, I would suddenly be on the fast track that I knew was laying just beyond the wall that I had put up to avoid said fast track. I had no objection to dating her. I was not really interested in anyone else. It was that I knew once we started dating formally and I met her parents and all that business, I knew that there was a suction power that would have had me married with children with a house in the country before I even had time to contemplate if that was what I wanted. The informality was the only wall that I had. Moving out west or asking her to stay here wouldn’t just have brought the wall down. It would have been jumping headlong into the suction tube. I wasn’t sure that was a bad idea, either.
I poked around a bit and discovered, to my surprise, that asking her to stay wasn’t an option. She was definitely going. The only question was whether or not I would consider going with her. Was she kidding? I wasn’t willing to talk about a “relationship”. Why would I move halfway across the country to be with her? I wouldn’t do that for any woman. I fully intended to spend the rest of my life in Colosse. Having her leave this way was actually the most convenient thing I could have possibly imagined.
Yet being who I was, I was not willing to leave it at that. I wasn’t going to go with her. Of that I was sure. Well. Relatively sure. At least I thought that I was relatively sure. Or I believed I thought so. No. I was definitely not going.
It’s a relatively common practice in sitcoms and dramas for weddings to be crashed on by The One that the bride or groom was meant to be with. It creates some schmaltzy happy endings, but a part of me always hated that sort of thing. In the weird state of mind that I grew up with, I always identified with the bride or groom that was being left. They were usually decent folk. Mostly, though, I felt it incredibly selfish that the crasher would wait right until the moment that the bride or groom was on the cusp of a happy ending before admitting what they’d usually known all along. Why, I wondered, was I supposed to be heartwarmed that the selfish guy or girl suddenly only cared when they were about to lose?
Yet there I was, the only woman in my life about to leave Delosa for some other D-state I was only vaguely familiar with, feeling the sudden urge to tell her how much I liked her, enjoyed being with her, and had with sudden clarity seen what I was losing by her departure. As the move got closer, I could tell that I had been one of few reasons that she had not moved sooner. I could see how frustrated she had become with my reticence. As she skated around the subject, those flashes of expression that I saw suggested that beneath her sunny demeanor she had been harboring even more pessimistic thoughts than were actually warranted. Unfortunately, she never gave me an opening to come out and say that her perceptions were off. We had become outstanding at keeping avenues of worthwhile discussion closed and this was no different. For instance, “I’m thinking about moving out west” may have been something worthwhile to say before she had committed to doing so. “I like you being in my life” may have been something productive to say when she wasn’t planning on moving 2,000 miles away.
So I was left in the position of having to explain that I really did like her in my life and though I hadn’t come around, she hadn’t been entirely wasting her time hoping that I might. And to do so in a way that did not suggest that I was upset at her leaving and that did not suggest that I was indifferent. Or perhaps it just would have been better for everybody involved simply by letting her go. Knowing her as I did, I felt that she would appreciate some sort of affirmation. In truth, I had little reason to believe that she would take it the wrong way. Even so, her transition of me and us from the category of “hope” to “regret” was still probably for the best.
Then I tried to say something and it completely backfired just as I had irrationally feared it might. Almost at the first mention at my having really enjoyed her company, she started trying to soft sell the prospect of me moving west with her. I had barely gotten a couple of words out when she started making room in the “hope” box again. Looking back as I reviewed the case files that night, it stood to reason. In the whole history of the time that we had spent together, I had never made any unsolicited comment about enjoying her company, about thinking that she was beautiful, or nice, or much of anything. Avoiding the subject of us had taken a much bigger toll and left a much bigger strain in things than I had considered. I decided that I had to tell her something, but I didn’t know what.
Then I ran out of time before the move. I was helping her and her mother load some stuff into her truck. It was the first time I’d ever met her mother, who immediately took the exact same liking to me that her daughter had. Oh my, she’d say, you’re so tall and with beautiful blue eyes. She kept telling her daughter how right she had been about me. It was apparent that she had told her mother a lot more about me than I had my mother about her. The mother said all of the things that I feared the daughter would making a hard sell on moving out with them. I could sleep on the couch… or in their previous little girl’s bedroom. They could probably get me a job if I was willing. I would help her daughter provide such beautiful grandchildren. This sucked the air out of the atmosphere, making it impossible to say anything.
And I never did.
Her mother forced us to kiss goodbye. She said she wasn’t going to start the truck until we did. It was one of the more awkward kisses in my life, for sure. She said that if I ever reconsidered to let her know. I can’t remember what I said to in response. And with that, Dharla Torrez was gone.
When Dharla left, I remember wondering to myself how she could be so uncertain about things as to never actually call me out on what I had actually been thinking and yet hopeful enough that I would move across the country to be with her. To Deseret? What in the world would give her the idea that I would move all the way out there for a woman?
A couple years later, I attended her wedding in Mocum. Seeing as how Clancy and I lived about an hour away, it wasn’t much of an imposition.