I can still see him sprawled across the bed at our resort, looking up from the pile of tourist brochures with a huge grin on his face.
“Baby Doll, let’s go to Cozumel and rent a moped to tour the island!”
His excitement was contagious, and it did sound like it could be fun. Dangerous, maybe…but fun. He knew if he could win over my cautious side, he’d have me hooked.
I gave in. It was our honeymoon, after all – no better time to live a little.
The next day, we hopped the ferry and sailed over to Cozumel. Kevin was actually giddy. That’s the day I found out he had a little bit of thrill-seeker inside of him; it didn’t come out too often, but it was there that day. We slipped on our helmets and straddled the bright red moped. Kevin gripped the handlebars, a beaming grin on his face, and I hung on behind, a cautious smile on my lips. The rental agent advised us that there was a separate road for moped riders around the island – “a little safer,” he said, which made my heart beat a little quicker. Safer??
Once we cleared the city streets, we found the alternate road and sped to the other, less-touristy side of the island – thirty-five miles an hour seems surprisingly speedy when there’s nothing metal and protective between you and the road. We stopped and hung out on a few of the secluded beaches. It was so quiet and peaceful on that side of the island – almost like we were there all by ourselves. The waves rushed up to cool our feet in the hot, white sand, and the ocean breeze blew through our sweaty helmet hair before sweeping up to whisper to the palm trees. It really was pretty amazing.
Finally, though, it was time to return the moped, so we climbed on and headed back to the city side. I tried to snap a photo of us, riding the open road, but the speed and my shaky hand blurred the shot and the only thing visible in the photo was a blurry bit of my head peeking around Kevin’s helmet, my chin resting on his shoulder.
If I’d attempted a photo just a few minutes later, it would’ve shown a terrified look on my face. We accidentally merged onto the regular island highway and our tranquil moped adventure wasn’t so much fun anymore. No more quiet waves and ocean breezes – now we were surrounded by rattling trucks and shiny cars and tourism vans. And all those vehicles were going considerably faster than our sedate thirty-five miles per hour.
I remember Kevin’s hands tightened on the handles. I was screaming inside, but he was trying to stay calm. “Baby Doll, see if I can move over a lane,” he told me. “I see up there where we get back on our road, but I have to get over.” I looked. It was two lanes of fast-moving traffic away. I didn’t want to loosen my grip from his waist, but he needed me to help, so I carefully looked behind me. “Now!” I said, and he scooted into the next lane. “Now!” I said again, and we moved over again. A quick exit and we made it. The squeals and hums and honking horns of the main road screamed past us as Kevin pulled off and parked the moped.
I buried my head in his back. I could feel his heart thumping under my fingers, still tightly gripping his shirt. He reached up and patted my hand.
“Well,” he said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
I think about that moment sometimes – actually a lot, lately. I can still remember the feeling of humming along the sunny road, tucked securely behind Kevin. The tranquility of the beaches and the sparkling ocean. I also remember the sheer terror of being surrounded by the fast-moving traffic and not knowing if we were going to make it. I think I can remember that part so vividly, because it’s a lot like I feel right now. Life is moving so fast. The minutes and hours and day and weeks and months are speeding by and somehow, impossibly, adding up to a year. One full year that Kevin’s been gone from me. I’m screaming inside because it’s too fast, and I can’t stop it and I don’t know if I can make it back and find some kind of happiness. I don’t want to be alone in the middle of this life racing by, as it honks and swerves to avoid the slow-moving grief I travel with.
I keep looking for the off-ramp. The one where I can pull over and breathe for a moment. The one that circles me back, back, back to the quiet side of the island, back to my life with Kevin and the Bear. The one where life is slow and he is here and we are happy and there is joy.
I keep looking for it. I know it was here just a minute ago – that life was just in my fingertips, but I can’t find it now. I see the calendar, and the days marked off, and April is coming up too soon. I bury my head in my hands, and I can feel my breath shudder with the tears slipping through my broken heart.
“Well,” I say to myself.
“Yeah,” I reply.