There have been a few times in my life when I experienced pure, unencumbered happiness. They are:
1)Before I grew up and disappointed her by being myself, before I thought of boys or girls, I sat on a porch swing with my dad's mother in the just-dawn morning, drinking coffee that was more milk than coffee and watching hummingbirds zip up to her feeder.
2) The night before we started dating, I dreamed I was submerged in a clean-water pool lit from below. I did not have gills, but I could breathe underwater. My eyes were closed, but I could feel you climb in just before the dream ended. When I woke, I knew I loved you.
3) The summer before my senior year of college, I lived with two other people in what was basically a tree house of an apartment in Mississippi. We didn't have air conditioning, but we had hardwood floors, a sun room and the large branches of a magnolia wrapping around our windows. There were wind chimes in that tree, and one morning I woke up to what I thought was the most gorgeous natural melody. I lay in bed just listening for a few minutes. I realized soon enough that the melody wasn't the windchimes but my roommate Daniel playing the Aphex Twin song "Nannou" in the sun room, but for those minutes when I sleepily thought it was the wind chimes, I felt totally into the world.
4) We fought nearly non-stop as kids. You had scratch-mark scars left from my fingernails. But one afternoon, driving home with our usual Baskin Robbins, we heard a song on the radio and looked at each other, talking, as we've always been able to do, without words. I threw the car into park in the middle of the road. We jumped out. The doors were still open. We danced in the middle of the road in the middle of our neighborhood.
5) I met you at sunset. My hair was still wet. By the next day, I felt I'd known you a hundred years (or more) as we knelt in the library near Eudora Welty. The world smelled like old books and your cologne. You asked if I liked Faulkner. I wondered about Flannery O'Connor. I put a hand on the shelf of Welty to steady myself. It was May in Missouri and the sun seeped in through the stacks. We leaned toward each other and kissed.
6) In that same tree house apartment, we used to keep long sheets of butcher paper. When people came over for dinner (which they did nearly every night), we'd pull out the butcher paper and have everyone draw or write on it. At the end of the night, we'd tape the strip on to the back wall in the living room. One night, after polenta and vegetables, we gathered around the latest sheet and listened to a Talking Heads album. At that point, I'd spent my entire life moving around. My parents rarely stayed in a house longer than a year or two. For the past year, I'd been working on a zine about the meaning of "home." During the song "This Must Be the Place," I watched my roommate Amy -- as fine a poet/artist/friend as you could find -- sketch a portrait. When David Byrne sang, "Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there," I wrote the line down underneath her sketch. I never worked on that zine again, and that piece of butcher paper stayed up for the rest of the summer.