Lexington will always be imbued with magic for me. (I refer, reader, to the one in Kentucky, not the one in Virginia where I went to college, although that has a magic of its own for an entirely different reason.)
Coming here changed my life. It was in Lexington that I met the artist, fiery-haired with a storm cloud for a soul. We spent hours in conversation so deep that we never dug our way out. In the end, I hurt her significantly, but she forgave me. And after that end, she hurt me significantly. I would still forgive her.
I came here for the parties, hosted by a husband and wife who started off as friends but fell in love. I remember championing their love when they were attacked by others, the anonymous and not-so-anonymous trolls of the world, ugly with their jealousy and lack of compassion, and defending what I knew to be real. It was real, and a beacon to the rest of us, although our friendship has since crumbled, much like their memories of how important they were to me.
It was in Kentucky when I stepped away, giving myself a break from someone who had my heart firmly in her tiny hand. She noticed, and what she said still echoes over a decade later. “I knew you’d always be there, or I thought you would. For the first time, I realized you could leave me, and I finally understood that I’m in love with you.”
Those raspy words, spat between puffs of a cigarette, changed everything. My marriage took a backseat to the new potential of true love with this soul-linked connection, resulting in divorce and upheaval and loss and the monumental destruction of every foundation in my life. Losing her a short time later only helped me to build my identity from scratch. Who was I? Who did I want to be? Who else gets this freedom to decide such questions so late in life? This was a blessing in a heart-wrenchingly painful disguise, leaving me sobbing on the floor in the fetal position for hours before I recognized the gift in front of me.
Here I am, eleven years later, and the magic persists. I remember basement karaoke with people I loved, conversations for hours as we drank and smoked and celebrated each other. I remember the cross-eyed crank who always drank too much. The drama queen who lied to make everything about her (including my life). The tiny bartender with all of her walls. The one who relied on me and said she’d always be there until she wasn’t. The unhappy ones who lived vicariously through the rest of us. The angel. The silver fox. The Dutch queen. For the most part, those people aren’t in my life anymore, for better or worse, but I’m here. The sum of my experiences with them and so many lessons and journeys and crises and triumphs as well.
I couldn’t have accomplished what I have and become who I am without them. And maybe, I couldn’t have continued to grow with them either. There’s no way to tell. There’s only forward. Out of Lexington, probably forever.