"Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God's residence is next to mine,
His furniture is love."
-- Emily Dickinson
His aunt died on Friday, which meant he had to be in Jacksonville on Monday for the funeral. Since I was scheduled to work on Monday, this meant we would have to take separate cars to Dallas. I didn't want this to happen for two reasons. One, my car was doing funny things and I was afraid I wouldn't make it to Bellmead without it falling apart. And two, getting to spend time with Kyle was one of the reasons I got him the Monday night Cowboys-Redskins tickets for his birthday in the first place. So I rescheduled work to allow me to drive to East Texas on Sunday evening with him. He would drop me off in Chandler to stay with my parents, then we'd meet up in Tyler on Monday afternoon to drive to Dallas for the game.
When he picked me up he had his Giddy Face on. He snickered that he had a surprise for me. He pulled out a copy of the Crowder Band's CD that wasn't to be released for two more weeks. Two years earlier, he and I drove around Waco listening to an early copy of "Illuminate," so this brought back memories. He skipped around to the songs he liked the most and he just laughed and laughed. If you remember, Kyle had two laughs. One was for when things were funny. The other was when something was so unbelievably good that he just had to express his disbelief through laughter. I was extremely impressed with the album. He was extremely moved.
When the album was over we talked about family. He and I talked about a lot of stuff over the years, but when we shared stories of our family and what it meant to us and how the disfunctionality has shaped who we are (for good and bad) we hit our stride, we connected on deep levels.
Of course, we also spoke of the love of both of our lives, his kids. At one point along the way he commented on how hard it is raising three young kids, how he was glad to be away from them for a little bit, but how now, after only being away from them for a couple of hours he already missed them so much.
He dropped me off, saying he'd call me the next day when he was on his way back to Tyler. We ended up meeting at the Starbucks in Tyler. He called me to tell me he was on his way and to order him a Grande Nonfat Vanilla Latte while he stops to get gas. (It is weird the random things I remember.) When he picked me up he made this comment: "Dude, we are in Tyler-- TOGETHER!" Kyle grew up in Tyler, I grew up going to Tyler, we spent the better part of five years talking about Tyler and it's places and people that we both knew. And we were now in Tyler together. It really was a special time.
On I-20 to Dallas he pulled out another CD and asked that I not judge him too harshly. It was Kelly Clarkson. I assured him there would be no judging coming from my half of the car and that if he were not in the car I'd be "getting loud." Numerous are the times I told him I "got loud" when a certain song came on the radio, and he cracked up every time. Everyone should have that one thing they say or do to a friend that will guarantee a laugh every time. That was mine.
We were earlier than expected so we decided to head up Central Expressway to eat at Blue Mesa Grill, one of his favorite restaurants. Here we talked about Tequila because we both enjoyed the famous Blue Mesa Blue Margarita, featuring Patron Blue Tequila. He said Scott thinks its the best and so he does to and I made a mental note to myself that for Christmas that year I would buy him a big bottle of the stuff. (I tear up a little every time I drive by the liquor store.)
We had plenty of time. The game started at 8:00, we left Blue Mesa at 6:45. It took us 20 minutes for us to get within 2 miles of Texas Stadium. Kyle giggled when we drove over the hill and saw the stadium shimmering in the distance. (I use "shimmer" lightly. It is Texas stadium, mind you.)
We then stopped. Deadlock. No problem, we still have about an hour. We can almost touch the stadium. Should be no problem.
Minutes went by. We both slowly began to tense up. Listening to the pregame show on the radio didn't help because they kept announcing the minutes to kickoff and it seemed like a countdown to a bomb going off in the car. "45 minutes to Kickoff." We had moved about 20 yards when, "30 minutes to kickoff." 25,20, 15 minute warnings were said and Kyle made the frustrated comment that the traffic was a complete, what was the word he used? "Cluster" was the first word, I can't seem to remember the second.
At the 10 minute warning we began to move a little, but we still were not going to make it. I told him I was prepared to run, if he was. "You mean just get out of the car right here and run?!" He said it as if he knew how ridiculous it sounded, but that there might be a 30% chance he would do it. I informed him I was not suggesting he abandon his car. I was ready to run when we finally got parked.
We finally made it to the place where we pay for parking, then we were pointed where to go. When we parked, it was frenzy. Kyle: "You have the tickets?" Me: "Yes." Both of us broke out into a sprint.
It was the run of my life. We were weaving in and out of crowds of people, jumping over barricades, running down hills. I kid you not, the Chariots of Fire theme rattled from inside Texas Stadium. It was as if the entire city of Dallas was cheering us on.
For the most part, Kyle stayed with me. His soccer lungs could have stood a faster pace, but he made sure he didn't get too far ahead of me.
We made it to the gate, gave our tickets, and ran all the way around the ramps. The noise from inside was approaching its peak. The teams were taking the field. We found our section, ran up the ramp, down the steps to our seats, completely out of breath.
We were in our seats five seconds, I am not kidding, five seconds, and then kickoff occurred. I looked over to Kyle and there he was.
Smile on his face.
Hands in the form of fists, thrust above his head.
I felt at that moment the way we all felt every time we were with him. I was in the presence of life. Extreme vitality.
At that moment, and at this moment, there is not a place I'd rather be and a person I'd rather be with than standing there in Texas Stadium with Kyle Lake, me out of breath, he with his fists in the air.