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Let It Out To Let It In

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I had known Julian Mayfield for exactly thirteen years, eleven months, and six days when he met his end. We had first met in the summer of 1956, on San Diego’s famed Coronado Island. My family was staying in the same suite at the Hotel del Coronado as we did every summer, and Julian’s lived there year-round. His father was in the Navy. We met at the beach on a hot day in June. I found Julian digging in the sand, though digging for what, I didn’t know. When I asked him about it later, he said that he didn’t quite know either, that finding something unexpected was better than looking for something you won’t find. I sat down next him and started digging too, and he said that if were both digging, we may as well dig together, so we dug a canal and connected our excavations.
Our lives continued like that for some time, starting at two separate points and then meeting in the middle. I would see him every summer on Coronado Island, and then I would leave for the year, and then I would return and we would connect again. I never had any idea where life would take me when I was with Julian. There was one particularly hot day when I was eight years old - two years after we had first met - and my parents forced me into a dress trimmed with lace and tulle for a fundraising event. I was itchy, I hated the dress, and so I wandered off. The island was small - there was no way I could get lost - so I just kept walking until Julian found me. He insisted that the only way to fix my attitude was to walk back to the beach, so we did, and then he pushed me into the ocean. The dress was ruined, and my eight year old self couldn’t have been happier.
My family stopped going to Coronado Island when Kennedy was elected, so Julian and I lost touch. Our lives grew more and more isolated, until one day we reconnected again. Since we’d last seen each other, I had graduated high school, and we met in a bar in Boston, where I was attending college. Jude - he was going by Jude then - wasn’t in school. He was working odd jobs, and when we met there, he was a window cleaner. He didn’t like to stay in one place for too long. It was something that had come from living on an Island for so long.
The night was February 28th, 1970. It was the kind of cold that takes the air out of your lungs when you step outside, so the bar was crowded with people trying to get warm. I was there with a group of sorority girls I didn’t know or particularly want to get to know, and Jude was there alone. I didn’t recognize him at first. Ten years is a long time to go without seeing someone, and his hair was much longer than when I’d seen him last. He was the one that found me. I was sitting at a table with a gaggle of debutants, and Jude seemed to have sensed my misery. He ordered a martini just to throw the olive at me, and when, after three tries, he finally hit me in the side of the head, I stood up, ready to tell him off. But then he laughed, and it was the same loud, hearty laugh that I’d heard ten years ago under the heat of the California sun.
We stayed in the bar until last call at four AM, and then went back to his apartment considerably more drunk than I’d intended to get. We stumbled to the roof of his building, numb to the cold, and stayed awake to watch the sun rise over Boston Harbor. I slept through my classes the next day, and for many days after that. I moved out of my dorm and into Jude’s apartment, and eventually dropped out of school. We left Boston late in March, and when Kent State happened, we made our trek across the midwest. Ohio was just the first stop on our journey. We drove from protest to protest in Jude’s crappy hatchback, talking and smoking and learning about each other since we’d last met. He no longer spoke to his parents, and had managed to dodge the draft because of a lung condition that would apparently leave him dead in ten years or less. We drove for hundreds of miles, staying in motels and crowded hostels, and sometimes just on the side of the road, until one day it was too hot to bear.
The country was in the midst of a heatwave, and I dangled my feet out the window of the car as we drove through Iowa. It was mostly farmland, so we stopped at a tiny isolated house. Heat was radiating from the earth, and Jude’s car sputtered loudly as we rolled to a stop. He knew the people at the house - a connection from one of his jobs, apparently - so they gave us a place to stay. The house was filled with students and former students who all opposed the war, so Jude fit right in. I was less passionate about the whole thing, all the protests were the same to me, so I mostly kept to myself. Keith, the owner of the house, gave Jude and I a room for a few days until we figured out where we were going, but a few days turned into a week, and a week turned into two, until it seemed that we’d figured out that we were staying. In the days leading up to it, I spoke to Jude less and less. I would lay sprawled across the bed reading or drawing, and Jude would stay in the kitchen, hunched over the table with Keith and some of the others, planning what I thought was another protest.
It was exactly one month after the Kent State massacre, and the heat was finally letting up. I thought we’d be leaving soon, that they would do their protest and Jude and I would drive away as usual, but I didn’t know that everything was different this time. It wasn’t just a protest they had been planning, it was verging on terror. I don’t know what the plan was - it never came to be. The test bomb malfunctioned in the middle of the cornfield behind the house, and both Jude and Keith were blown to pieces. The plan was over. Everyone in the house disbanded, and I was left with a hatchback I didn’t know how to drive and a suitcase of clothes that weren’t mine.
I haven’t been able to return to Iowa, or Boston for that matter, since I got out. Sometimes I still think I see him in his ten year old form, walking the beaches of Coronado Island or driving by with the windows down. Sometimes I think that we’re just separated again, and that we’ll dig another canal and connect to each other. And sometimes I sit by myself on the beach, just waiting for another adventure.





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