I didn’t think you would follow me here tonight. A grown-up party at the science center, Liquid Luau, getting lei-ed, drinks, a DJ, a really good cover band, a man on stilts making ridiculous balloon sculptures with a really fun guy who isn’t afraid to let his dreads hang down and dance to the music by my side.
Watching the drunk-crazy couples boogying in front of us with absolutely no inhibitions reminded me of you, never afraid to make a fool of yourself dancing in front of me when we were at home.
What I called your puppet dance always had me in stitches because you moved like a marionette with your stiff hips, attempting to swing your flat ass like a stripper. Always with such a serious look on your face, “This is how the girls on X Avenue taught me,” you would say of the crazy girls of the streets of Hartford that you’d run into on the job.
How was I to know that walking into the rainbow circus of people would cough up memories of that? The KidSpace on the right was where you—Mr. Etiquette—your kids and I spent an obscene amount of time playing with Legos and trails of water, air tubes and plastic balls just 10 months ago. Seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago, all at the same time.
I miss them at the strangest times, those kids. We only had six weeks all together, yet it seemed so much longer with all the cherish-worthy experiences we packed in while they were here. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s going to feel weird when their time to visit here comes around and know that I won’t see them then, and that I probably will never see them again. Or you.
How was I to know that the best option for dinner after the Liquid Lounge tonight was going to be our place, V-Man? One of the few places still open outside of the city was the restaurant where you and I had our first date and numerous anniversary and non-anniversary dinners over the years. We sat in a different section of the restaurant than you and I usually sat in. I ordered my usual though. I found myself asking for no sour cream, since you hated it and always assumed I must too.
After tonight’s he and I got scammed out of $40 at a completely empty club wooing us with the empty promises of reggae rhythms (seriously, it was as if we had walked into a really bad ‘80s wedding reception before anyone from the wedding had arrived), we drove through the city. I passed the familiar fork in the road that I took so many times during those two years I taught out there. Crazy times. Have been thinking about them a lot these days, especially after watching that documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’.”
And then I saw your old building. I remembered that day when the cell phone rang and you told me to look out the window, and there was your grinning face, waving at me from the work SUV as we passed each other by. I remember the times we’d park in that garage when we’d come to hang out on the weekends. Can’t forget that time you had to stop in the station, when it was completely dark, and I tripped in my heels, trying to keep up with you zooming through, and I fell flat on my face.
Then, tonight we hit the highway. That familiar music filled the car. I know I left us in California and Pennsylvania. Or in Las Vegas and, a few towns over from mine now, in that house that felt like our home for such a long time, until the last time I visited in March, when even “our” cats felt like strangers.
Everywhere I go, there you are. I can’t even go to a grocery store without thinking about the foods you especially liked. I was always grabbing a dessert or Coronas or something as a surprise treat for you. And when we went shopping together, so many, many times, the trips were nothing special. But it was just all those shared moments with you, forever seared in my mind. I almost felt tears spring to my eyes in the middle of Stop & Shop last weekend while shopping with my mom. How dare you still cause me any emotion at all?
How can I build new memories when all of your shadows are haunting me at every turn? I try to write you out of my heart and mind. To sing that painful melody so many times, I get sick of it and the lyrics start to mean something else entirely.
If I really am stuck in this geographical place with no end date in sight, then I am going to need a heart transplant, a brainwash.
I need to hit that reset button. Someone new deserves to make his own unique memories with me without anyone else overshadowing or overlapping.
It is time to be reborn. My parents named me appropriately. The story of my life is about the power of being reborn—again and again and again.
I deserve to no longer live in the pain, confusion or regret of the past. I want and need to feel all that joy and surprise of the newness of today and tomorrow in all its magical fullness. Ii is time to taste that juicy, sweetness of a fresh start.