With all due respect to Louis Armstrong, “a kiss is just a kiss” isn’t true in my story. On August 10, 1989 in Ashland, Oregon, I received a kiss that changed my life.
I’ve told the story before…I was in a doomed relationship but had only been married 9 months when I signed on as an instructor for a local marching band in February 1989. As luck would have it, they were going to Vancouver, BC on tour in August and I was terribly homesick, having left the only home I’d ever known the previous summer. D was the drum instructor. I remember the first time I ever saw him, he was on the other side of the practice field, holding hands and walking with one of the girls in the band, which I thought was a little bit odd, frankly, that sort of thing is generally frowned upon.
As the season progressed the staff became closer, as you would expect, but there was no spark between us, at least not coming from my direction. I actually felt a lot closer to J, who was D’s best friend, the band’s director and a fellow instructor. I became a bit of a substitute for his wife K, who was on tour with another group (I had in fact been hired to take her place as an instructor).
My ex (as usual) was totally absorbed in his life, his new job, trying to set up new drug connections for his daily marijuana habit – you know, the important things. So I dove into my role and the new people in my life and quickly discovered that there was a different way of living then I was used to.
When you spend 24/7 with someone in a dynamic that is as intense as a competitive band on tour, bonds are created that go deep. The fact that I got to show off my home town to D and J only made the experience that much richer.
I had made plans before we left to meet my ex in Ashland, a stop on the way home from the Northwest, to spend a weekend. As the rendezvous date approached it became clear that I needed an extra day to work with the band and get them ready for the next competition, which I was going to miss. When I called to tell him I wanted to push the date back by one day he blew up. He called me selfish and basically said, “you be there or else”. Although he’d had his moments in the past, this was the first time he’d actually forbidden me from doing something. This could have been because this was the first time in our 5 year relationship that I’d ever asked for anything! Of course, there had been many times in the past when he’d changed his plans, especially when it came to teaching, sometimes things come up, and he should have been OK with it. He was threatened of my new friends and my autonomy, and in hindsight he had every reason to, although I didn’t know it at the time.
On the drive from Vancouver to Ashland I sat between D and J in the equipment truck. Not exactly the most luxurious or comfortable ride, but something happened in those hours – I felt safe, an equal, something I never felt with my ex.
D carried my suitcase up to the room at the old hotel I would be staying in that night with my ex. He’d been quiet all day and I knew he didn’t want to say good-bye, although I had no idea what was coming. He put down the suitcase, took my face in his hands and said, “I’ve fallen in love with you.” He said a bunch of other stuff too, but that was the gist of it. I was dumbstruck. “I’m married”, I stammered back. We talked for a minute about what we should do about this, a question neither one of us had any answers to, and when we would see each other again. As he turned to go, his face a mask of anguish, he gave me the softest, sweetest kiss I’ve ever received.
As he closed the door behind him I sat down on the bed, my head swirling with confusion and emotion. I honestly don’t remember the fight with my ex or any other details about the rest of that weekend in Ashland.
I’m not proud of the way I acted in the next 5 years. I treated both my ex and D badly in turn, and didn’t do anyone any favors by adamantly refusing to leave the marriage until I had checked off every saving effort available, even though I knew it was inevitable.
D gently steered me into therapy to deal with my abuse issues, and was there for me in my darkest moments, even though I could give him no assurances that we would end up together. I cannot thank him enough.
So, happy anniversary my darling, thanks for waiting. God only knows where I’d be without you.
Jonatha Brooke -- God Only Knows mp3
Diana Krall -- A Case of You (live) mp3
Lyrics by Joni Mitchell (partial)
On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
And your face sketched on it twice
Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
Oh and you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of youI could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
Oh Id still be on my feet
Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid
I remember that time that you told me, you said
Love is touching souls
Surely you touched mine
Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
And you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you
I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
And still be on my feet