Two Aprils ago, Paulie and I decided to break up. There were valid reasons for both of us, which made sense at the time, but clearly they didn’t stick because as you know we are again a couple: living together, breathing together, laughing together, growling together. Yes, growling; it wasn’t a typo. But growing, too – it’s a good balance.
I was reminded of our break up last night. We’d gone with friends to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Berkeley. I started to tell a story from the last time I’d been to see them at Zellerbach Hall, that time alone. I’d asked, “did I already tell you this?” after starting the story, then remembered and said “oh, we were broken up then!” This shouldn’t have mattered, though, because we still spoke almost every day during that time. “I must have been grumpy with you or something,” and I continued my story.
This morning, thanks to annoying/endearing social media, I was shown a few ‘Memories’ from this day in past years.
Two years ago, many things were the same: I still wished there was a burrito delivery service in Healdsburg, I still spilled things on myself and noticed subtle changes Paulie made around the house, although today I don’t always acknowledge them, and I should (thanks for replacing the towel bar in the upstairs bathroom, baby!).
Some things were different, of course. I spent a lot of time on my little balcony with the giant magnolia tree shielding me from those passing below. I listened to my music as loudly and as often as I wanted to. There were only anywhere from 3 – 6 dishes in my sink, and no clouds of dog hair on my couch. My calendar had entire swaths of blank squares in it. I wrote every day, every night, often drunk or crying or laughing at myself. I typed and then deleted thousands of texts and emails, trying to sort it all out. Even at it’s darkest, I have always loved and fully appreciated my time alone, and there are moments when I have varying degrees of longing for the quiet simplicity of that time.
Two years ago I bought myself a ticket to Alvin Ailey. I drove myself to Berkeley, found myself a free parking spot by singing my magic parking spot song, walked by myself to Zellerbach Hall, decided to treat myself to glass of sparkling wine. There was a mix-up and I was given two glasses and, having no one to share the second with and realizing I wouldn’t have time to finish them both before the show, I wandered around trying to find someone who would accept my offer of a free glass of champagne. A nice couple. A group of friends. I couldn’t believe how many people said ‘um, no thanks.’
Last night, telling the story from two years ago: “this was basically my dream come true, you know? Some stranger comes up to me and offers me a free glass of Roederer? Come on! And everyone is acting all, ‘well, jeez, I guess I’ll have a sip or something if it’ll help you out…’ like they’re doing me a big annoying favor!” The night was meant to be a treat to myself – and it was, truly – but if Paulie had been there, a surplus of bubbles wouldn’t have been a problem.
As I relayed this story to Paulie while we stood in line for our drinks, I was so glad for his laughter, and for the weight of his shoulder next to mine as we pressed together each time someone squeezed past us through the crowd. There is no perfect time – the past isn’t simply a series of decisions to forever question, or of glory days we can never let go of for fear nothing may ever be quite as damn good as then, that one time, or that block of years. Time isn’t just Then vs. Now.
But sometimes, the now is damn good, and you can’t imagine it being any better.