essays from the heart; and other things
essays from the heart; and other things
on distance (143 miles)

on distance (143 miles)

a journey back to my first love song

hey everyone,

i’m excited to share something deeply personal and nostalgic with you all today. this song is called “distance (143 miles),” and i wrote it when i was 19. it’s a piece that holds a special place in my heart, capturing a moment of profound love and intense vulnerability.

credits and background: this specific recording was born at 1am, fueled by tea, at aquinas college’s kretchmer hall auditorium for my recording class, sometime during the winter of 2008. this was what i submitted as part of my recording class final that semester. the song ended up being more than 6 minutes long so i could fulfill the requirements of the final, so i slowed the song down and wrote a new verse.

  • kate griffes & erin sprague-rice on backing vocals—fabulous people (and vocalists) both.

  • tim parker on piano.

  • me on guitar & lead vocals.

  • kathy gibson gets producer credit because she was definitely making sure i sounded good & everything was being handled back at the booth.

that was one of the best college classes i’ve ever taken because of all of them. (thank you.)

I definitely sneaked in liquids and snacks while recording this song in this wonderful place; Kretchmer Hall, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI. Source: AQ.

i was only 19 at the time, and i was so in the closet. i had started to go out with some friends of mine that i went to high school with, first, going to discussions at the local gay coffeehouse in grand rapids, mi. and from there, to diversions, a gay bar up the street. we’d pre-game in the car, get in, and dance.

and that’s where i saw him. i had just gotten new glasses and wasn’t feeling my best. he saw me dancing with my friend julie and he pulled me aside to dance with him.

and the rest is history. he lived in the east side of the state, in ypsilanti. he would make the trek over the next four months almost every weekend to see me at aquinas and stay with me in my dorm. we’d make food, talk, make love… and i didn’t know what to do with myself.

Leave a comment

that’s when i fell in love with a man for the first time, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying. i thought i would burn in hell forever because of it. i remember being a grown-ass person in college, legitimately terrified that my parents or people at church would find out.

my friends enabled and facilitated everything, often giving me rides back to the east side to go see him or letting us stay at their apartment over the weekend when i had to move back home.

i remember writing in my journal at the time, “if this is what takes me to hell, i will make sure i get everyone souvenirs. so be it.”

Me, the year I recorded that song, 2008.

but like everything else that is young, it didn’t last. and little me was so deeply hurt by it! i remember the rainy, cold fall afternoon i wrote the song. i skipped my psychology and constitutional law classes that day to sit in my room and cry and sing and play. i wanted to survive this heartbreak, and this song came out.


reconnecting with this song many years after i wrote it has sparked in me a beautiful realization. after so much heartbreak and many false loves, i still love how i loved then. the simplicity, the humility, the yearning, the intensity—it hasn’t gone away. and i think it never will.

Me performing this song at AQ Idol, in 2008. I got third place in that competition.

like under the tuscan sun says, never lose your childish enthusiasm.

this is not a perfect song. this is not a perfect rendition of it. the chords might be repetitive, and i think the lyrics could use more depth—but this song, i wrote with every ounce of my love for someone, and it deserves my respect and my love.

this song will be in my upcoming album, which is still being written and developed.

thank you for listening. i hope you like it.

humbly grateful for your listening time. 🥰


essays from the heart; and other things
essays from the heart; and other things
Edgard Portela