On a Friday, I reluctantly take her back to the airline terminal. She must use her return ticket before it expires.
Susan is for getting married right away at a courthouse, but I am hesitant without her parents’ permission. Walking with her hand in hand to the departure gate, I find myself suddenly nervous. I wait with Susan until the last moment before she has to turn away and go down the ramp. I watch her walking backward waving and then she steps around a corner and disappears from my view forever.
Standing alone, staring at the closing ramp door, I suddenly know I will never see Susan again.
In Hawaii, her parents argue against our marriage. Friends counsel that she should give it more thought. By not being together, we drift apart. I enroll at San Diego State University determined to put my life back together. During Christmas break, I am working at La Jolla Surf Systems when a letter from Susan arrives. I open it eagerly then read that she is seeing a surfer friend of mine in Hawaii.
Months pass, my longing for Susan intensifies, and I often think of Puu, who is gone from me but for my memories. Marijuana is now my constant companion as I sink deeper into depression.
At the end of April, facing finals I realize I have to get it together. I stuff my marijuana in a little-used drawer. I should have flushed it down the toilet—but did not have that kind of moral courage.
In May, I get another letter. I fear to open it; May is the wedding month. I place it on the teak dresser. Each time I walk by, I pick it up but cannot bring myself to open it.
Three days later, a spring storm rips through La Jolla. The surf is too turbulent to ride. Pulling on my running shoes, I go out an hour before sunset onto an empty beach. I run along the seashore in the blustery wind and heavy rain. It is half a mile from La Jolla Shores to beyond the University of California San Diego Pier. I run in the deep sand then splash through shallow water. I sprint under the pier racing between barnacle-encrusted pilings. I run through a storm-swollen stream that races towards the raging ocean from the steep coastal cliffs. I run until the sun sets and only slow my pace when I cannot see what is beneath my feet.
Back at Revelstoke, I open the backdoor and step inside. The wind buffets the truck as I grab a towel. In the darkness, I see the pale deep sink where I remember my profound happiness in Yosemite while watching Susan making banana nut bread. I step into the dark, empty kitchen and touch the cold oven. I pick up a box of matches then look toward the dresser where the envelope waits. My hands are chilled, but that is not why they are shaking as I strike a match, I light a thick red candle and carry it to the dresser. I look at the envelope in the soft flickering light with a feeling of extreme dread. I gently open it.
I read every word slowly as they rip like a spray of bullets into my heart and soul. Susan was married two weeks ago on the North Shore. She wants to share her happiness, as she describes the ceremony at the beach on the North Shore. It is a joyful ceremony attended by all of my surfer friends. Susan and her new husband are honeymooning in New Zealand.
I hold the letter to the candle flame and watch it catch fire then drop it into an abalone shell where it blackens as flickering flames consumes the words that are tearing at my soul. At first, the tears come softly, but then a broken hollowness spills out from deep down inside of me.
I have no idea how long I stood there in the dark shivering before I opened the drawer where I placed my stash of marijuana.
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