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[April, 1996] Near-Death in Alaska

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April 8, 1996

My right hand is sort of jittery, most likely from the Almond Joy latte I’m drinking. I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Alaska. It’s Monday so I’ve been in Eagleton* for a while now. Hm, I can’t even think of where to begin.

The plane got into Anchorage at around 12:20AM and Bradley was there at the gate looking more beautiful than I remembered. It took a while to get my suitcase and find our way out of the airport. Then there were all these presents he hid around the inside of the car for me. He gave me two books (one of which was Poppy Z. Brite’s Wormwood), a cute little black flashlight, a tin of cloves and something else that has to be one of the best presents I ever got.

[Before we get to this magical gift, a note on our face-to-face meeting. I remember the long plane ride from New York, and how about 45 minutes before we landed, I swapped my glasses for contact lenses and put on some make-up to be cute for Bradley. I can even remember what I wore (black jeans and a navy long-sleeved top). My nervousness escalated to the point where everything felt numb. When he greeted me at the gate, we hugged. I think it was a short hug. It definitely wasn’t an epic oh-my-god-let’s-get-married-tomorrow hug. For now, let’s chalk it up to the late hour and travel exaustion. We had a four hour drive ahead of us to Eagleton where he lived.

But back to the presents. He was initially going to hide them along the road, then realized how impossible it would be to find them in the dark (and snow) on the drive back. Here’s the story of that last gift, hidden under the passenger seat.]

He asked me over E-mail what I would put into a cookie, if I could put anything into it. I said cloves, chocolate, powdered sugar (because it makes me smile) and would want the cookie to be star-shaped. So in the glove compartment was a box (a wooden one that he painted himself) filled with cookies. The very ones that I described as my ideal cookie. And they tasted wonderful too (even if they had been crap I would have been touched by the very sentiment).

[To be perfectly frank (and a little lame), my obsession with cloves came from catching whiffs of people smoking them in goth clubs all the time. It was one of my favorite smells in the world, though what would possess me to include it in a cookie is still beyond me.]

The drive to Eagleton was certainly noteworthy. First, we got pulled over for speeding (Brad turns to me saying he was only doing 60 when the cop caught him at 75). After being reassured that this was an extremely rare occurrence (his first speeding ticket, I think) and that he was a very good driver, we kept going.

It was snowing very hard (coming right at us, giving me the illusion of traveling through space at high speed). To briefly sum up the events, we skidded off the road. Probably the most scared I’ve ever been, a shocked denial coursed through me when it happened. Brad turned off the ignition, asked if I was alright and hugged me. It does not end there—it happened again a little while later—even more terrifying this time. He was so apologetic (a bit angry too, because he insisted this was not an accurate example of how he drives). The rest of the ride was fine, good conversation, little music (too distracting in those conditions).

Still from the GnR video. At one point, the model puts her feet in Slash's face, which I think is almost worse than driving them off a cliff.

Still from the GnR video. At one point, the model puts her feet in Slash’s face, which I think is almost worse than driving them off a cliff.

[To this day, this is probably the closest I have come to dying.

We were driving on a mountain road. There was a lot of black ice. If the snowfall outside wasn’t a blizzard, it was pretty damn close to it.

That first skid was bad, but the second could’ve been the end. The car fishtailed and it went down down down an incline. It was such a steep descent, I expected the car to start flipping at any second. I thought of the Guns N’ Roses video where Slash’s hot model girlfriend is fighting with him in a moving car and sharply turns the wheel, sending them over a cliff. I thought, “I’m only 18 years old, I can’t really die now!” And I really didn’t want to die with my last living thoughts being of a Guns N’ Roses video.

But my fear wasn’t far off. When the car came to a stop after that second skid, all I could see ahead of me was snow and darkness. There may have been some trees off to the side. Had it been light out, I would’ve seen we came to a stop less than a foot off the edge of a cliff. (Bradley didn’t share this fun fact with me until much, much later.)]

Ok, I feel like I’m putting in all these irrelevant details, so I’ll talk about the big ones. The cabin, for instance. His brother built it (!) and it’s very small and warm and cozy. There’s just one room with a loft upstairs. A most comfortable loft, too.

I couldn't tell the volcanoes apart form the mountains.

I couldn’t tell the volcanoes apart form the mountains.

[Yes, why delve into “irrelevant details” like, you know, nearly being killed, when I can share vague descriptions about a cabin. Why bother with other pesky specifics about the place, such as its lack of running water and electricity. Or the outhouse, which was the reason one of my gifts was a flashlight. Or the view of snow-covered volcanoes from the picture window that took up nearly an entire wall of the cabin.]

We got to the cabin at around 6:00AM and didn’t leave the loft until about 7:00PM (we were sleeping, talking, lounging around). Went to the Washboard for showers then drove around a bit so Bradley could show me the town.

Most of the last few days have been spent in the cabin (it’s so easy to just stay there because it’s ¼ mile trudge through the snow to get to the car). We’ve talked endlessly (I’ve never laughed so much in my life). Um. I’ll stop here for now.

I won’t stop here. I left out one major aspect of the trip in this entry. Despite all the laughter and great conversation, there was a strange energy between us. A distinct lack of the romantic connection we had created over the previous months through all those letters, phone calls and “E-mails.” I tried to rationalize it as Bradley not wanting to make me uncomfortable by putting the moves on me, but he should’ve known those moves would’ve been welcome. The fact that he hadn’t touched me aside from chaste hugging bothered me, as much as I tried to enjoy the rest of the trip.

I didn’t want to believe that scary near-death ride from the airport was a bad omen. Or the fact that there’s a special word for the time of year I chose to visit Alaska, when the snow turns to mud: “breakup.”

 

 

*Not actual name of town.