I’d wanted to write this earlier. I could not.
April 19th this year dawned exactly the same way it did sixteen years ago. Raining, humid, fairly miserable out. Sixteen years ago, however, I was nervously anticipating my first date with you, Gary. We’d met on Match, back in the early, Wild West days of online dating. Your profile was bitter and full of snark, as was mine. A few choice lines from mine were: “I am an atheist. I do not believe in god. If you do, or have any hopes of converting me, please leave me alone and don’t waste my time. I do not want children, not mine, not yours, not anyone else’s. If you want children, do not waste my time.” Ask me how many religious assholes wanting litters of children hit me up. I lost count and was ready to give up. Until I saw you.
Your profile held the line that won me over, and went something like this: “my ideal woman is a troll that lives under a bridge, and is otherwise known to authorities as Martha Stewart.” Well, you had me at Martha Stewart. Your photos were taken with an actual camera and were a bit odd but those dimples! Oh, those dimples and blue eyes, and the glittery complexity in your profile was like fresh water in the desert.
We emailed a bit (no real texting back then, not easily in 2002) and talked on the phone (haltingly, you *hated* talking on the phone) and made plans to meet at Grand Central, under the clock, by the information booth. That night, about a half hour before I was closing my shop, I said to my last customer, “Any other night and I would let you stay as long as you wanted. But tonight is my first date with this really cute guy, and I need to get ready and go.” It was thunderstorming outside, and back then I was blowdrying my hair every single day. I know, hard to imagine, but it’s true. I figured it would be the best first date I’ve ever had, or the worst. Either way I’d have a good story.
As I came up out of the tunnel and into Grand Central, I looked towards the information booth. I saw this cute guy wearing khakis and a black polo shirt. “Damn,” I said out loud, and the cute guy spoke my name, “Lysa?” We both smiled, hugely. I said rather stupidly “I thought you said you would be wearing black pants”. “Nope”, and you winked. My heart melted right there.
We walked all the way down to Union Square, to Heartland Brewery, talking the entire time. At one point I asked, seemingly apropos of nothing, “Have you ever heard of a TV show called The Prisoner, it was on for one season in the 60s…” “I have every episode on DVD”, you replied. In unison, we said, “Excellent, Smithers.” And looked at each other, grinning like idiots.
I don’t recall exactly what we had to eat, I think I had lamb sliders or something. What I do remember is looking at your photographs from 9/11 and the resulting aftermath, duly impressed by what you’d captured. We shared our 9/11 stories. Your hands were on the table, and I looked at the inside of your left wrist noticing your ankh tattoo. I remarked on it and you snatched your hand back as if burned. I said, “no worries, I have three tattoos myself.” You relaxed, visibly, looking at me somewhat differently now.
The dessert menu came, and while I was really interested in the flourless chocolate cake, my eyes lit up when I saw the Key Lime pie and decided I needed it pronto. When the server brought our pie, I took a bite, and apparently made my O face. You said, “Wow. I don’t get *that* channel.” Rather than being embarrassed, I simply smiled the satisfied smile of someone wickedly content.
After dinner, we went down to Union Square Park, sat on a bench and talked for hours, kissed under the moonlight (it had mercifully stopped raining and was warm enough to dry the benches). Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick walked by arm in arm. It was getting late, and I really couldn’t afford to miss the last train home. We walked past the Salvation Army building which has an incredibly creepy logo. You took photos and we joked about how creepy it was. You walked me back to Grand Central, put me on the train, kissed me goodbye, and said “I’ll call you tomorrow”. I rode home feeling blissful, not expecting you to call because that was part of the game wasn’t it? The three-day rule?
You called at 8 a.m. next morning. I told you how surprised I was, that you didn’t pay any attention to the three-day rule. You said “I know I’m not supposed to call right away but that’s stupid, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t not talk to you.”
We made that long-distance relationship work, we made regular commutes from Harrison to Park Slope and back. We made it work after you got laid off. We made it work after you moved out to Bay Ridge. You moved in with me, you and Harry Houdini Underfoot (f/k/a The Cat), you moved in with us. We all moved to Sleepy Hollow, we decided to buy a house, we got married, we moved to Peekskill. And here I am still in that house. In our house.
I miss you dreadfully. I think about what we might be doing if you were still alive. I think about the things we might be talking about. I think about the meals we’ve missed together, the terrible eating habits I’ve adopted, the way I’m just getting by. The babies, as always, are keeping me company, like little fanged, furry barnacles. I took Teaz’ka out for a walk today, I cleared the garden, took him for a walk around.
The Weeping Snow Fountain Cherry in front of our house is in full bloom and smells so slightly of anise. The Kanzan Sakura in the backyard is just beginning to show leaves and buds. I can’t imagine it’ll actually bloom in time for my birthday next week. It’ll be the first time ever that it’s not done so. Everything is so completely discombobulated, so completely out of whack. I’m trying so hard and failing still.
Love you more, love you always, love you still.