Alaska feels like pain to me.
I mean, it's beautiful and full of wildness and animals that my father-in-law shoots and brings home and it is where, he tells me, the hunting is so far away from civilization that you don't even pick up static on the radio.
But different places evoke different things for different people, and Alaska is not a happy or wondrous place for me.
Alaska is where my ex-boyfriend spent his 5th grade year.
His parents had divorced about a year before. His father was abusive, both to him and his mother. To the point that when I knew his mom, the brain damage from his beatings made it almost impossible for her to hold down a job.
After the divorce, he left Texas and went up to Alaska. The Last Frontier.
She took her young son and followed him. Remarried him. That's a verb that shouldn't exist.
By the time I knew him, Alaska was part of the story he didn't tell. Until it was seeping out of his pores.
Alaska was part of the reason we couldn't stay together. I was too young to handle so many things that adults can't even handle most of the time. We were 17, 18 years old and Alaska was ruining my life.
At self-centered 17, it was hard for me to see that Alaska had already ruined his.
And that was the biggest part of the problem. I couldn't see beyond my relatively safe happy middle class suburban life to look at his, to really see him and who he was and who he would be and who we could be together.
I don't regret leaving. God, I love my life and my husband and my children and my neighbors and my friends and all of what would never be if I'd stayed with him, if I'd dwelt in the realities of what Alaska had done.
What Alaska has done for me, though, I don't regret either. Alaska opened my eyes to pain. Pain that doesn't go away. Pain that can't be easily managed. Pain that reverberates all over your life. Alaska made me see. I can't ever say I don't see. I see you. Oh baby I see you now.
Alaska is pain.
But have I ever visited? Only in dreams and in moments across a classroom or table. Only in my heart.