“I wanted to love you better so I bought you a city.”
-Dina Guidubaldi, “How Gone We Got”
I was there for the beginning of my little brother’s first backpacking trip, but I didn’t do a great job of it. A friend and I were starting our own trip. My brother was going up with my mom. We arranged the two trips so we could all walk together for the first day. My mom was in full “help the little one love the mountains” mode, so she’d packed all the normal gear they would need, and then she’d packed what they would need: a kite, and paints, a floaty ring for the lake, and more. I helped carry all that up to the lake where they’d made their base camp. I wanted to.
My friend and I were going to hike up farther into the mountains, but I asked him to hang out a bit while I helped my family set up. I started teaching my little brother how to hang their food out of a bear’s reach. He was goofy while we did it, and I got frustrated with him. I didn’t want to be keeping my friend waiting, but still, what I did was worse than goofy. I wanted to help my brother and mom because I wanted them to have a good trip, and because helping was a practical sign of loving them. Being goofy together is a sign of love, too.
Looking at my grandfathers, and at my community in general, I see men who have a hard time saying “I love you.” Weird, isn’t it? I didn’t think that was hard for me, but then, there I was, stomping along through some I-Show-Love-By-Carrying-Things-Sternly performance.
At first, “How Gone We Got” is a story about a man who can’t love the woman he “loves:” he can control things “for her,” own things “for her,” make things as they should be “for her,” but only in as much as she fits into the construction of his own fairytale. When that blows up in his face, the man retreats to another kind of love: he’ll be a great dad. We know he’ll do the same thing: fill the relationship with his idea of what it should be, put everything “in place,” and leave no room for the other, the beloved, the love. He doesn’t see that. He learned that the strategy didn’t work with a woman: he’s sure it will work with a child.
I wish I’d hung out with my little brother, up there beneath the big trees. I’m glad that, since then, we’ve made time to goof around. In the loves I feel, for siblings or partners or anyone, I don’t want to buy cities and buy cities and buy cities until I’ve made you see what I’m feeling. I want to come to a place between us, and make space for what I find there. I want to be open, and let the love I feel be. I want to play around together while we set up camp.