Floating with Carla

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Twenty year lost friends reunite for an afternoon river adventure. Memories of the love of the past are reignited giving the past renewed meaning and significance. A memoir of truth and devotion and love through time.

Submitted: September 02, 2013

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Submitted: September 02, 2013



Floating with Carla

The following is a partial transcript of a 15 minutes of free form, extemporaneous monologue recording.  It includes a collection of other thoughts and memories that were written down over the following three days.  Much of Part One is written exactly as the thoughts and words flowed from my mouth.  Word for word, idea for idea.

My memories of the distant past are mine alone, and may well be inadvertently off on some minor detail.  But nothing of my feelings is off.

Part Two, the collection of memories of the river trip itself, was put together as exactingly as my memory would allow.

I can’t say for sure why I felt compelled to write this.  For Carla, for me, or for us?  But I don’t have to say.  For me it’s bigger than that.  And I hope it exists forever.





Part One:  Extemporaneous monologue recording


"This is my summer tale of love.  It’s true - and it was a personal, and deeply moving day in my life.  It happened last week.  It’s a story of devotion, forgiveness and healing - and it’s a story of a river trip on the mighty Salt River.

For what was the end to an already memorable summer, I joined Carla Jean and her daughters for a tubing trip down the Salt River.
It was the first time I’d layed eyes on Carla in twenty years - and in some ways, it was an experience for me that is far beyond compare.It was great.  She has little idea how great."

"We were freshmen at college, just a month or two in, and I fell in love.  
Carla was the first girl - the first woman I loved so much that I trusted her completely.  I trusted her fully - and I guess she trusted me.

For the young adults we were, those couple of years we shared were exciting, active, fun and loving - as much as can be expected for two such young friends and lovers entering the world hand-in-hand.

Two years later, I became lost...a typical kind of early 20’s confusion, I suppose.  
Carla wasn’t.  She seemed intent and focused.  Even then, I saw that.

It was something that had to be.  I needed to end it - and I regretted breaking up with Carla even in the very moment it was happening.  The walk home from her apartment was long, dark, and lonely.  But there was no other way. Each torturous step away from her remains clear in memory."

"In the 25 years since that end, Carla became a CPA, moved to southern California, married, and in the late 90’s had two daughters.

Fate led me to Europe where I found new focus for school.  In the early 90’s, as I neared completion on my degree, I was able to find and visit Carla for a short lunch on the coast in Los Angeles.

Ten years ago again, I searched for her, her mother, and her sister.  I even hand-delivered a letter to what I remembered was a family home in downtown Tucson.  All to no avail.

Then a few years ago, Carla found me through social network.  It was our first communication in 15 years or more.  Even though it was only online, I was so happy we’d reunited that I told everyone who cared about me and some who didn’t.

Soon, Carla and I shared memories of past exploits together and caught up with one another’s current lives.  Sometimes we even exchanged photos that were taken so long ago."


"A couple of months ago, she told me she’d be vacationing in Scottsdale with her girls.  Three weeks later, she asked me what I thought the chances were that we’d be able to see one another while she was here.  “God willing and the waters don’t rise, about 100%,” I told her.  “Those are good odds!” she answered.

Carla Jean and her daughters wanted to go tubing down the Salt River.  Her idea!  Would I like to join them with my niece, Jalin, and my nephew, Ty?  Jalin’s friend Jenny went with us instead of Ty.

Jalin, Jenny and I met Carla, Bryanna, and McKenna at a convenience store just outside of Fountain Hills.  Ohhh that was nice!  She pulled up in a big black pick-up truck -- a hug and kiss on the cheek and handshakes later, we boogied on down to the river in a convoy."


"So I was telling this story to a friend the next day - about how this was such a huge deal for me - a kind of game-changing moment.  He says, “Why do you say that?  How could such a thing be so meaningful?”  He knew.  He was just challenging me.

As my mother put it, “the fact that Carla wanted to do something with you means so much just by itself.”  Not many people do that kind of thing.  It’s just not a common experience.  After all the years, a warm spot in her heart remains, I guess.

I continued, “I guess It was a realization that what I thought I was doing well for Carla when we were 18, 19, 20, was apparently perceived and remembered by her as just that.  I was happy to realize that she had fond memories of me and our time together.”

So in a way, that was real cool to learn - that I thought I was doing good for her - mostly - and she seems to have remembered it like that - mostly.

That’s what I said to my buddy."


"As my niece (the daughter I never had) and her friend and I waited to meet up with the California party at the convenience store, I felt the need, or urge, to explain something.  As far as Jalin and Jenny knew, we were going tubing with a “friend and her girls.”  And since Jalin and Jenny knew that my loving relationships are few, and held close to my chest, Jalin was certainly wondering who this girl Carla was.

I spoke.  “Girls, do you know who we’re waiting for? - do you girls know what this is all about?”  - They didn’t know.  Together they turned to me with question in their eyes.  “This is the first woman I ever loved - who’s comin’ in here right now!”

They lit up all cute-like, saying “oooh, ahhh.”  They got all excited for me and then slunk sweetly back into their seats.

“You know” I said, “it’s been sooo many years, and maybe this could be a lesson for you two.  That if you try to be, and try to act like an adult in the many relationships you’ll have with people - you know - they can last - they can be good for a long time - maybe forever!"


"While we floated together down the river, Carla told me her daughters had asked, “Who is this guy?  Why do you - or why did you like him?”  Carla told her girls, “Tim’s basically like a really nice southern gentleman.”

As an Arizona boy, I think that’s kind of funny somehow.  That’s the first time I’d heard that!  But then again, those are Carla Jean’s own words - describing me to her own daughters.  I guess worse things have been said about a man.  Right?!

That’s one way Carla may have needed to explain to her daughters her loyal or committed act of visiting with her first college love - a justification of the day, perhaps.  I guess it’s great that apparently I was good for Carla, and now she’s passing that on down to her very own girls.

So I guess it’s also good to take it down to that next level.  Seems like beyond Carla and me, we’re trying to pass on real truth and morality of human relations, distant in time, to the generation that have followed, today."


"I get anxious thinking about all that time that passed between us.  I sure hope I can see her again before another 20 years pass us by.  I told Carla on the river, that I might not survive if that happened.  She smiled in agreement that that would be too long.  Maybe next year."

"We had a great time on the river!  We were very well stocked for the trip.  Water and tea for all, sandwiches, chips, peanut m&m’s, crackers, gold fish, string cheese, dried fruit, etc.  And Carla brought the beers for herself and me.  We needed nothing more than those items filling the coolers."



Part Two:  Floating

In the parking lot of Salt River Recreation we unloaded vehicles, and by coordinating the two coolers, we all began to discover one another.  “All 15 year olds need to carry the coolers to the tube rental spot,” I said.  I wanted to force some interaction between the young girls who were with us.  Jalin and Carla’s eldest Bryanna, were on cooler duty through the parking lot.

Five minutes later, and after retrieving her forgotten wallet from the tube rental office -- yeah, Carla misplaced her wallet within two minutes -- we all got on the bus.  She laughed about that forgotten wallet.  We were driven through the desert, upstream, to the drop-off point.  My camera came out on the bus!

As we walked our tubes, and Jalin and Bryanna heaved the large cooler down to the riverbank, I asked curiously, “Carla, when was the last time you were on this river?”  I wasn’t sure what she’d say.  “It was with you, Tim.”  I smiled reservedly, trying not to reveal too much of my inner satisfaction to the daughters who were with us.

The perfectly lovely float downstream began, and we continued to rediscover one another.  The girls giggled together, making forays in and out of the group of four of them.  Occasionally one or two of them would check back in with us, perhaps on guard, and in the meantime Carla and I lingered gently with one another.

Suddenly we got separated.  It’s so comical to think about in light of how focused we all were on being WITH one another.  And really, it was one of several weird and heartening coincidences of the trip.  

Do you believe?

The river branches around a 100 yard long island.  Amazingly, it happened that the group was separated with Carla and daughters on one side of the island, and us cut off on the other side.  I was quite upset at this little hitch and the fact that I'd not properly seen the eventuality as we floated on down together.  Over the densely overgrown island I called out “CAAARLA!” two or three times.  The sound of water rushing over rapids was my only response. 

I was lonely, yet I was also reassured.  I knew we’d reunite.  It was bound to happen within a matter of only some minutes.  It would only be a matter of time.

Reunion happened again at the downstream end of the island as Carla and girls came in to where we three waited on shore...kind of reflective of the entire past 20 or 25 years.  No?!

It was obvious, but the question was posed and answered nonetheless - should we tube the entire length of river, or should we exit near here, at the half-way point?  Simple.  “Let’s go the whole way!”

As the peaceful and ever-more heartwarming float continued, my camera gave way.  After eight years of reliable use the camera failed.  Terrible!

We swept slowly around a left hand meander.  Cliff jumpers!  “Mom, I wanna do that!” called Bryanna.  So all five girls paddled their floats toward the cliff-face underneath the 15 foot jump.  The opposite side of the river had a beach and waste baskets.  I paddled there with the cooler tube to clean out our waste.

Something spontaneous and cute in its happenstance...
As I swam my tube and the cooler tube back across the significant currents to join Carla again, and as two of the girls were considering a second jump, Carla reached out to help me.  I bumped the cooler-laden tube toward her.  It got away and she sprang out of her tube and swam for it. The current beneath the cliff was deep and strong and as she swam, one of her canvas river-shoes slipped off.  Tube or shoe?  I said, “Get the tube, I got your shoe!”  As she succeeded, so did I, finding the shoe a few feet deep in the swirling green eddies...perfect reflections of Carla's green eyes.

I like that.  We communicated well while helping one another - and it elicited a smile and sense of togetherness.  - I wonder if the girls are aware of those 5 seconds.

We swam 30 or 40 feet back upstream to get to where McKenna waited, anchored against the cliff in her own tube, guarding her sister’s and mom’s for each of them.

As Bryanna decided to jump again, and Jalin joined her, I asked Carla if she’d taken pictures of Bree’s first cliff jump.  “I realized I ran of out film as we came around the bend,” she winced.  That’s another curious coincidence - that both our cameras were done by the halfway point of the float.

Then Carla suggested to me, “Tim, go ahead - jump it!”  Well, what else was there to do?!  I could not decline.  If she said “go to the moon,” I’d go to the moon.  Did she know that?

As I scaled the cliff face following Jalin’s directions, I thought to myself ‘this is crazy - I’m glad I’m doing this - there aren’t any more old people up here like me...’ and so forth.  But I’ve been known to like cliff jumping.  As I looked out, I turned to Carla smiling and called out, “Carla, this is for you!”  It was at risk of making her daughters feel slightly uncomfortable.  But it was a truth, and so it had to be!

What fun it was!

Shortly thereafter, we all slid in to the exit point on the Salt River in order to catch the bus back to the offices and parking lot and our waiting vehicles.

We embraced again and everyone parted ways, and Carla followed my lead as we convoyed back out of the river basin.  I felt a kindred spirit toward her girls.  I blew a kiss as we diverged on Beeline Highway, Carla heading to her resort, me back home.

That night I received a message,  “You still know how to show a girl a good time.”  Damn that was perfect!  I’d do about ANYTHING to try and show Carla a good time.

6:30 the next morning there was another message.  I’d forgotten “the world’s greatest Swiss Army knife” in her cooler.  I find that amusing too.  Carla had misplaced her wallet, Tim misplaced his knife.


Carla Jean is a beacon.  She gives me light.  I’d lost track of that critical bit of knowledge in all the confusions of being twenty years old, and in all the living of my long life since then.  And THAT is probably the greatest of all the revelations of that stupendous day last week.  She gives me light.

Her rare power has renewed me.

I’m so happy I know that woman.

I’m so happy to know you.

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