I was twenty years old when I moved to Denver on a whim. I knew a couple of friends who were planning on moving out there and convinced them that we'd all be great roommates — but the truth was, I didn't like them much and I half knew I was getting into what would turn out to be an ugly triangle situation.
But I had found myself stuck in a genuine rut and needed a quick escape. It would serve two purposes: an escape and an adventure. And of course, I'd enroll in school so that I could get my father's endorsement.
I was in the midst of re-establishing my self-esteem after ending an abusive relationship with a serial-cheater, and letting go of a hot summer fling in which the lack of substance and clear boundaries seemed to be a remedy for my woundedness, but in actuality left me yearning for more. Anyway, it was over now, and an adventure beckoned. I made a short list of the things I'd miss about Chicago: the lake, the blues fest, and my friends.
My dad loaded up his station wagon with my few belongings and we drove out to Denver to get me settled in. Kami had picked out our apartment a month earlier — which was a huge letdown. An ugly-modern walk-up full of old folks on a way-too-quiet side of town. The mean lady across the hall warned us as we moved in that she'd be keeping her eye on us and that we had better keep it down. Kami and Leah would be sharing a room, and I'd have the other bedroom for myself. Right away, Kami seemed extremely possessive of Leah and I thought she had a crush on her.
I realized quickly while living in Denver that not knowing how to drive was going to be a handicap. Because of the lack of any substantial mass transit system, I'd be biking everywhere I needed to go. Cherry Creek had a nice little path alongside it that got me downtown to the Community College of Denver in about 20 minutes. I registered for classes and got a job at a fast-food joint at the Cherry Creek Mall. It was there that I learned that if you were taking your meal to go, you'd need a "sack," not a "bag," as we said in the Midwest. And it was also there that I developed a lust for fresh-cut french fries dipped in malt vinegar.
We decorated our apartment in Indian tapestries and the living room stereo became the centerpiece of the place — almost always playing some live Dead. Nag Champa filled the air. I was surprised when the clothes we shared with each other actually fit me — perhaps the first inkling that I had a distorted view of my own body. When I look back of pictures from those day, I marvel at how fit and healthy I look — because I certainly never felt good about myself in those days.
Gazing out at the foothills of the mountains seemed to bring me peace each day, a peace that I would need to hold in reserve for the betrayals that were to come.