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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 @ 7:15 am
Retreat Day 1
The bus ride out of town is a struggle. I don’t want to leave. It’s an odd feeling, for me, to be hesitant to travel. I text back and forth with Mike, and it helps but eventually I am forced to be alone with myself. I read for a while and then grow restless. I listen to music and watch the scenery pass but soon grow tired of the noise. Eventually I just sit in silence and close my eyes.
I check into the hotel, drop my bags in my room, and change into my bikini. Pull on the white waffle hotel robe and flip flop down to the pool. The air carries a brisk mountain chill. I wade into the pool and do lazy laps through the steaming water. I survey the hot tub. Two guys drinking ciders. Easy.
I get out of the pool and go into the hot tub. This again. Me and the men and the hotel hot tub. I’d forgotten about this part of work travel, this part of my story.
“That was a short swim,” the taller guy says.
“I have limited time,” I reply. He laughs.
“What are you here for?”
“A leadership retreat. I’m supposed to be out with coworkers right now but thought I’d sneak in a swim.”
“Are you from Vancouver?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“How long have you lived there?” This question makes me laugh. People often tell me that I’m the first person they’ve ever met that’s actually from Vancouver.
“I was born in Vancouver. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Reno. He’s from Maui. We are here to mountain bike and drink beer.” He pulls a tall can of cider from his bag and gestures it towards me. American men.
I talk with them for a while. I go into the pool to cool off with Maui. Reno leaves to retrieve more alcohol. Maui and I return to the hot tub. He’s tanned with perfectly straight white teeth and I have a suspicion that he comes from money. That he’s pretending to be a dirtbag but that dental work gives him away.
Eventually I rise to leave. Maui looks up at me with soft brown eyes.
“What’s your name?” He extends his hand.
“Shannon.” I put my hand into his. He has a soft, gentle grip.
I go to the bar to meet up with my coworkers. I am overcome with gratitude. The company’s leadership is here to welcome us, the emerging leaders, into the fold. Warm hugs.
I realize that I am going to have to tell my story many times this weekend. The more I tell my story, the easier it becomes. I barely hiccup now, when I talk about having to walk away from everything and rebuild my life. Caring nods, encouraging smiles.
Three hours later, I leave the bar and walk through the village, slightly drunk and feeling warm and loved. It’s odd to be here alone, a place that I visited every few months with Daniel. As I walk past each restaurant, each coffee shop, each bar, I look at the table where we last sat. The hotel room window that I looked out of while he lay sleeping in the bed. The shop where he bought his bike. The corner on which we stood with his nephew. His ghost is everywhere.
I breathe in the cold mountain air. I can change the way I move through this town, the way that I experience it. It’s just me now, just my thoughts and feelings, and I can choose to do things differently now.
I walk out into the middle of the Olympic plaza. There is nobody around. And so I dance, the stars bright in the clear mountain sky.
Me without you. Me after you.
All of this exists because of you.