June 7, 2003
It always smarted a little, the fact that we didn’t have a proper anniversary. We did have one, but those early days were tangled in so many things–your break-up, my break-up, a trip to Germany, a lost job, moving house, being confused–that I felt too shy to make a big deal. It made me feel tiny and silly, wanting to mark “us” on a calendar. Like grasping for meaning, bullying for commitment. And so, I let it go, but quietly observed the date in my head, as each one passed. 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007…2008…
Our first date happened by accident. There were costumes and cocktails: a retro flight suit; a pair of high heels; my dykey hair-do; your baby-face; swapping kisses in the corner while a jazz quartet dithered on stage and the sun warned us we’d stayed out too late.
Our second date happened on purpose, and so I really considered it our “first”. This time the costumes were worn by professionals (two dancers, one trombone player) and there were no cocktails, no sunrise. Instead, bicycles and a late-night race through the park.
The next morning was hot. The year’s first heatwave. We slunk through town, nervous and smiling, not really talking, just holding hands. Mopping sweat from our palms and adjusting our grip. Streets crammed with people. Such a nice day. A pretty good chance we’d run into someone we knew, and we weren’t ready to go public. Not for a long time.
You needed a shirt for a party that night. We popped into my friend’s family shop, browsed racks of cool, white shirts, old-fashioned ties, picked up second-hand tap shoes and flipped them over to examine the soles. I think you needed cuff links, too. I draped filmy scarves around my neck and swirled in a skirt. My friend was excited I’d brought a man with me this time, wanted all the details, gave me a sly wink and asked to be introduced. He has dimples in his cheeks. That day, they punctuated his excitement that I’d landed me someone sweet.
His father was working that afternoon, too. He was more forward, insinuated himself between you and me. Took us each by an elbow, slid his hand up my arm to rest on my shoulder while switching to a handshake and squeezing your fingers a little tighter. I remember what he said:
“Son, this here is a beautiful woman. I’ve known her a long time,” (he hadn’t, as least not that well), “and you need to be sure you treat her right. Do you see this fine woman? Do you see what you’ve got? You look good together. Now then, you be sure you treat her good, too.”
I blushed in horror, a man you’d never met before, lecturing you the morning after we first got it on. Like he knew we’d been naked a few hours ago, and wanted to ensure your intentions were anchored at “decent”. Like he thought his reprimand might avert us from a troubled course. He was a good man; he passed away last spring. In the meantime, he helped me put together outfits for several of our dates, select a tie clip for your Christmas gift, find you a last-minute bow tie when chances of scoring one for New Year’s Eve seemed hopeless.
Lately, I’ve been angry but, that doesn’t mean I am irrationally rewriting history, filtering memories through fury and casting you as The Total A-Hole. It does mean I am carefully considering who I am, who I was before, during and after “us”. It also means that I have a special affection for the good times, and am being cautious about languishing there.
I put things into words to give them solid context, to fix things in time, to order the events of my life. I pan for details that shine amongst the debris of tough times, and pick out the good bits to save in a little box. And, even the angriest of my stories are love notes, messages in bottles bobbing in the water and knocking against the side of your boat. Despite the wrongs, there were indeed times when things seemed right.