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You met me at a very strange time in my life.
Kara and I first met on a hike that I was leading to promote my first guidebook. At the time I was happily coupled up and thought little of the encounter. We got to actually hang out with each other sometime later, thanks to a mutual friend who invited us both out for drinks. I was single at that point but she had a boyfriend. Nonetheless, I was instantly enamored. To hear her tell it after the fact, it was reciprocal. A few weeks later and sans boyfriend, Kara asked if I would be interested in a “semi-platonic hang out.” Four days after that, I would go back to my own home for the evening to prove to myself that I could. That was the last time I would go to a “home” that wasn’t where she was.
Kara was quick-witted, empathetic, gorgeous, charismatic, dark, brilliant, and hysterically funny. She was also a tempestuous, half-off-the-rails hourglass-shaped shitshow that had me at hello. I, on the other hand, was a happy-go-lucky gentleman whose life had just wholly derailed yet again and had only recently and tentatively been placed back on track.
I had been out of a heroin detox facility for only a matter of weeks when we got together. She was patient, loving, and unafraid of my circumstances. At the time, I was just slightly more than a husk of my former self, but she recognized me in there somewhere. Kara was along for every step of my long climb back to health, for which I will be forever in her debt. She brought me to life again through love, laughter, funny voices, songs, inside jokes, and outside adventures. I was a nice, tenderhearted funny guy who also possessed enough layers, experiences, and dark life chapters as to intrigue, and also not get her goth card revoked for being with me by whatever governing body rules over such matters.
I loved going out with her. She simultaneously reveled in and was angered to the point of distraction by everything Portland had to offer. But it wasn’t just the big city - it was a throughline of her existence and a constant source of amusement for me, if not occasional frustration. For example, she loved the culinary scene. The vegetarian options around town were seasonal, inventive, and honored the ingredients - arguably one of the best U.S. cities for a vegetarian with occasional pescetarian leanings. But also, “every restaurant in this town wants to incorporate smoked salmon into places it doesn’t belong”, and “every goddamn plate of anything is topped with an aggressive egg!” The aggressive egg comment, by the way, caused me to spit food and may have officially stolen my heart.
She, like myself, had been married and divorced once before and had no intention of going down that avenue again. That said, after a couple of months together, Kara told me, “I want to offer you my pebble.” Me, ”Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Her, “Umm….no. Penguins mate for life. They typically make it official with the gift of a smooth pebble. Will you accept my pebble, will you be my Guinn?” “I accept your pebble and offer you mine back in kind. We are Guinns.” “You’re just supposed to take the one I gave you back to your nest.” “Sorry, I didn’t get the memo…..wait, am I the lady penguin in this scenario?” “Not unless you’re into that sort of thing, then we can explore it. Do you want the pebble or no?” “I would love your pebble.”
Our chemistry was insane across the board. We didn’t just fall in love, we were shot into it out of a cannon. Some folks like to say that everything happens for a reason - which has to be one of the purest lines of unadulterated bullshit I’ve ever heard. I unequivocally believe, however, that timing is everything. Remarkable as she was, at that time Kara was an unpredictable woman navigating the morphing scruples of the onset of prime adulthood, but whose soul felt like my ultimate safe harbor. I was an honorable man that treated her with the kindness and caring that she so desperately needed and deserved, but with a soul that had been susceptible to significant folly through the years. We were both trying to hitch a ride in a better direction and decided to share the same stranger’s car.
We each occupied an almost identically narrow avenue of what we wanted and needed in an acceptable relationship. We both had enough trauma and damage in our lives that being in a pair bond with a truly healthy, largely undamaged human didn’t seem viable. But neither of us wanted to accept “too broken” and endure that shit tornado again either.
We knew that we were quality potential partners, and quite capable of being in wondrously loving relationships. We also both possessed some pretty spectacular if not horrific war stories and colossal life missteps but had managed to forge some pretty good shit from the resulting flames. Essentially, “I need kind of damaged because I’m kind of damaged, and you would likely run from me with a purpose if you weren’t. But I feel like I rose above my damage, and I’m also a pretty solid human being and if given the opportunity, could shine like a diamond in a caring relationship.” That can be a tough demographic to filter through a dating app. Luckily, each of us saw the other as the perfect amount of broken with a chance for redemption, and at just the right moment.
Chemistry be damned though, had we met more than a few months on either side of my detox, or before she had spent the better part of a year indulging in Portland, we would likely have missed our window - for a number of reasons. But instead, us happened. At the end of the movie, “Fight Club,” Edward Norton’s character tells Helena Bonham Carter’s character, “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” They then held hands, both wounded and weary, and watched the world crumble around them.
We would send that quote in meme-form to each other from time to time throughout our entire relationship.