I sat alone at the bar in Stetson's Nightclub Saturday night. The bartender, dressed in black and wearing a felt cowboy hat served me a vodka and tonic and mentioned that drinks were a buck fifty 'til 10, then drawled, "thank you, darlin," as I slid his tip across the bar. From my stool on the end, I watched as couples two-stepped across the dance floor. It was a scene as familiar to me as sticky summer nights and Houston traffic jams. I couldn't help but to think that in a few short weeks, all that is comfortable and familiar will be 1200 miles away. And everything around me will be new. Looking around, one fact was obvious. I was alone and it was time to go.
I'm ready, feeling a bit anxious, but ready. I have packed up many of my things to prepare for the move. The walls of my living room are white again, and the cupboards are practically empty. I've discarded so many things that I don't really love, thinking that I should become more choosy about the things with which I surround myself in the future. Along the way I'm realizing just how little I need to survive, or more specifically, thrive. It is freeing but a little bittersweet.
Texas was a friend, a safe place for me after living in my tiny hometown. Here I was anonymous for years, known only to those I choose to include in my life. It was exciting and big, with lots to discover. It allowed me to make choices unaffected by well-meaning friends and family. It allowed me to find my own path and grow strong and confident. Texas was untamed for me, a place to take risks and fall down and get up again, ready for the next challenge. I found home and family and love. Somewhere along the way, it fell apart. It's southerness lost some of the charm. Love went bad and family took advantage. My heart began to ache every hour and everyday. Friends left, seeking their own adventures - new lives in new places. And I stayed too long.
So I, too, am leaving you, dear Texas. Thank you for Big Bend, "yes ma'am," and tequila shots. Thank you for boots and rodeo and chicken-fried steak. Thank you for Galveston, humidity, honky-tonks, country music and sweet tea. I will take a bit of you with me. I'm afraid I'll never give up saying, "y'all." Memories of you will waltz through my mind when I hear George Strait on the radio on cold winter nights. And those 22-year-old Tony Lamas - I'll put new soles on them a fourth and fifth time if necessary. They've walked through many Texas towns and hold the memories of dust and heat and dragonflies over the river.
Standing on the edge of what is new, I am anxious, but comforted by the fact that the time is right. And that somewhere 1200 miles away a new life awaits me. There will be new friends, new discoveries and lots of space to make a place for the words to flow from my pen onto the blank pages of my notebook. The hills of South Dakota call me. Even in the bleak winter the sun reflects off of the snow and I am warmed by it, drawn to it, ready to explore new love, gentle, strong and passionate.
Will South Dakota be a friend, or just an acquaintance? Will I sit alone on a bar stool sipping a vodka and tonic some distant February evening feeling the pull of the familiar, yet ready to move on? I have so many questions without answers, risks yet to take, miles to put on my old brown boots. And while I'm leaving an old friend, it is a new beginning. I will take risks, fall down, and get up for the next challenge. I will live.