Inspired by Peter Witte’s short story, “They Were,” The Sun Magazine, JULY 2016 ISSUE 487
He was. She was. They met at a fountain the day before semester classes began, awkward- him, lusting- her and together they: talked about his new puppy Nagi and his sick grandmother and her travels to Germany, talked a little more until the night she turned 21, sat together at Rileys and drank cheap beer, went to his place and hers and back to his, drove across the country and decided they were in this, moved in together, found a Native American community and found themselves dancing at powwows as head-man and head-woman and building teepees and in ceremony, graduated from college a year apart, found jobs nearby, rented a little white house on 3rd Street, got married at Hungry Mother State park by a man named Humble Bear, wore buckskin and beads, watched as he built a life around community and work while she dreaded her days and wished for more, went into debt so she could go back to school and become the teacher she’d been too scared to be, spent four more years in the little Appalachian mountain town while he built an Indian Village and she taught high school English, lost Nagi too early, had a perfect baby with a tiny hole in his heart that would close three years later, watched coverage of their town on TV after both shootings- Tamara’s husband on the Huckleberry Trail and a few months later the many at Virginia Tech, locked classroom doors and stood on football fields when threats in bathroom stalls were found, struggled to figure out how to manage with three, fought a lot, found out the job he loved would end soon, applied to grad school and moved to Indiana with a one year old and two cats and a turtle, found a teaching job for her with students she immediately loved, breathed out relief when he passed his quals, had a daughter, put supports in place to keep each other okay, slept more this time, spent summers apart while he did research, tried to move, stayed put, grew frustrated being asked repeatedly at work to give more and receive less and look the other way, found a writing community for her, supported her need to be there often, found distraction from dissertation writing for him, supported his need to be there often, made her decision to “retire” from a career she could no longer stomach a reality, became more connected to the conscious community that gave her the courage to choose a better way to spend her days, started homeschooling, spent time building community in their family of four, realized they could do things differently and always had, finished a dissertation, adopted Annie the crazy mutt to celebrate, accepted a semester- turned year- turned two year teaching position at small university nearby, loved their work- their days- again, continued to sit in the impatient waiting that a new career brings and in the knowing it will be good and hard whether they are here or wherever there is. He is. She is. They are.
~ Kelly Sage