By Liam Woodworth-Cook
After a near 24-hour delay stretching a raining Thursday to a gray disgruntled Friday, I was on aboard a weekend “vacation,” some might say, to Colorado. Surely my partner and I make the rounds of family during the holidays, but taking a weekend off of work? In the start of school? The gears of a fast-paced lobster restaurant in the summer propelled me right into the school year. And this was my chance, to bolt out of the state and go to one of my favorites states. A mid-fall vacation to Colorado; a weekend trip to one of my best friends.
Julien and I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, and fell in love with the woods and poetry. We scaled our town’s elementary schools throughout our restless teenage years. We looked up and marvelled at each other. We were the continuous duo, seeking adventure and words. Julien drove the car and I rode passenger rambling about my travels down south. Julien would pass poets’ names to my ears and recite verse. We got in trouble, and back out of it as buds. Julien attended the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, a well-known school focused on writing and Buddhism. Being an autodidact through high school, I’ve waited till this past spring to attend college. In the timeline of my hometown friends, most of them graduated this past spring. Julien, whose graduation I was disappointed to miss, now lives with his partner Sara up in Longmont, about 30 minutes from Boulder.
Before coming to Maine in 2016, I was living with Julien in Boulder. I had spent the spring and summer in New Orleans reinventing a house and wondered where to place myself next. Julien called me; per usual, it had been months since we talked on the phone. For most of relationship outside of sharing a hometown, we mailed letters to each other. Many times we’d hand-deliver these letters if we were meeting in person for a brief moment. Our phone calls were spread out, always stretching at least an hour. So when I received the call, Julien was renting a house with classmates and wanted me to share a basement room; I said yes. After nine months in company with serious poetry intellects, dishing washing and cheap beer, I moved to Maine to be with my partner. Since then, I’ve seen Julien twice. I was living on an isolated farm in Maine while Julien finished school, and we were both faced with the question of what was next.
I moved to Portland to go to school, and he and Sara moved in together. They eventually moved out of the overpriced yuppie haven of Boulder, and went to the mountains. The friend group split up, the loneliness of existentialism settled in. Sometimes the drive to create sits in a cobweb of the past. This summer however, Sara offered to fly me out for his birthday weekend. What I expected in store was a fast weekend of deep hugs, solid connection, writing, poetry and booze. Plus the homework I was dragging across the country with me, and 21 copies of The Beacon for each stop. It all landed. The hurricane down south delaying my flight till the day of Julien’s birth, I made it in time for a night of high-class scotch.
The plane ride itself was humorous. A gaggle of drunk ladies who had been stranded at the airport were yelling for free drinks — “The captain said free champagne!” Finally getting to Denver, we played phone tag. The Denver airport is several times larger than Portland’s, and the several times I’ve been, I always manage to get turned around. To make matters more enjoyable, my phone couldn’t receive calls, only texts. I spent half an hour running around multiple floors, east and west gates, to finally find Julien who had been feeding my false instructions. We teamed up with Sara in the car and spent the entire ride laughing.
It was a brief trip, as I was leaving Sunday night at midnight. We spent Saturday lounging with french toast and going intown to use the Wi-Fi so I could do homework. Our friend came with his girlfriend and joined us for a relaxing evening of beers. It snowed several inches, to everyone’s surprise. I thought about school, I thought about my partner back home, I thought about the way the mountains are sloped, the hills like razors scooping in awe. I thought about poetry, crafting and all my stories, and what would I be doing after school. And I thought about the several stacks of newspapers from our hamlet in Maine that were with me out here.
Julien and I spent Sunday having a New Orleans-themed brunch with Sara before she had to go to work. We then walked around the town of Longmont and did homework together in a cafe. It was hungover, gray, cold, dragging and fun. Julien works as an English tutor, and it was our first time that I was the student and he wasn’t. He said he was proud of me, and that he missed school. I then pulled out the newspapers. I had only left a couple in Denver in a hurry. We quickly stashed them among the local papers at the cafe. We then walked stashing more papers outside until snow from an awning fell on us. We laughed and continued strolling. We were caffeinenated, tired, in love with the gray, in love with each other as small beings on a mystifying planet who still play as 24-year-old men; who know how to love and smile to each other, exclaiming the greatness we feel when learning with our partners.
It was quick, full of poison, and utterly rewarding. Bonds like that are forged in a specific beauty. A masculinity that is vulnerable, sometimes right and willing to be wrong. It’s exposed, mischievous, critical and above all engaged to continue eating each other’s words.
Photos by Liam Woodworth-Cook