There is a picture of my dad working construction on the Provo Canyon Road when he was first married to my mom. My dad is smiling and his left elbow rests on his shovel. He peers into the camera in the way that I think all young people probably do; with a kind of innocence and courage that only inexperience can maintain. Twenty three years later I would run my first marathon on the pavement he was slabbing down.
I think that things have secret lives. Not in the Toy Story way where everything comes to life the moment you shift your eyes away, but in a much deeper sense. The road that my father created out of concrete and steel carried the feet of his daughter as she ran, carried the car of another daughter as she stole back and forth between Park City and Provo, gone to meet her man. That same road witnessed the boy and man who stepped off the road to go hiking, then died hours later as they fell from the top of Bridal Veil Falls. That road transports dreams, fears, and hands texting underneath steering wheel. Things witness the passage of time and people and events and eras in ways humans never can. Things have an absolutely holistic life. Something that does not have to breath or eat or grow or die understands more about the earth than even the 2,000 year old tree I met in Korea on the layover between Vietnam and The US.
In high school, my thing was a chip on the bathroom wall that looked like a dinosaur. Sadness was abundant then. Every morning I would wake up, moving and sighing beneath the covers as they asked me to stay a little longer. I would sit down in the shower and turn up the heat while my head tilted downwards between my knees. A kind warmth. And my dinosaur would be there, looking down at me with his tastefully long neck. We would just chill in that warmth. He was up along the ledge on the right side of the shower where the tile met the bare wall. I don’t know how he got there. His body formed out of a few water stains, and his neck was the shadow from a deep chip in the wall. If you squinted and turned your head to the right, he would appear. I would look at him day after day, and think how funny it was that he had come to join me, here in the shower. He was my thing. He had a secret life, and I knew about it. He watched me as I sobbed, as I laughed, he watched me as I scrubbed before the prom, desperately trying to exfoliate, only to realize I had turned my entire epidermis a 24 hour bright pink.
When I went back home after college he was still there, of course. He was living holistically. Somehow it was comforting to think that through all my happiness and pain and stress and worrying and thinking about the future that he was still just existing there, sitting between the tile and the bare wall. All he did was hang there and exist and do nothing more. His secret life was witnessing me in that shower, small and weak, strong and bold, happy and singing. And he’s there now. And whether I live or die, sink or fly, he’ll still be there, watching over the bathroom, with that crack making the arc of his long neck.