I've been thinking about what's left of "us" lately, because I've been cleaning and organizing. I'm selling the big blue house, so Simone and I can move into something with fewer than five bedrooms; something easier to manage. I've thrown a lot away.
But I've kept stuff, too. I was surprised by my choices, and rueful a trash day too late to recover the card you left for me on our wedding day. I threw that letter away, but kept something you wrote when you were mostly out the door and I was still oblivious. I should probably toss that one, too. "Notes from J-- and Eric's Relationship Summit" is what you printed in your neat teacher writing at the top of a classic yellow legal pad. So different from your declarations of unconditional love in that wedding day card, the "summit" notes is a list of negotiations around what days per week I'll do the laundry and what rooms I'll always vacuum. It describes how I'll cede the computer, and who will make dinner from night to night. No mention of displays of affection, no agreements about setting aside time for romantic interludes. It's the business of maintaining a household and raising a child. I should have figured it out at that point, but you told me that day, "I'm not going anywhere," and I believed you.
I never missed you. By the time you moved out, I was more than ready for you to go. While you lived in the house those months at the end, you were so civil, it felt like contempt. It was my own personal purgatory, and there were times I wasn't sure how I'd make it to the other side. But maybe that was your way of helping me toward disengagement. If I let myself believe your behavior was some sort of unselfish and wise attempt to make the transition better for me, then I should be grateful. I never pined for you.
Never. Not for a second.
But damn, I wish I could trust you again. My life has gone back into flux, and I wish I had the benefit of your insight. Wouldn't it be amazing to be best friends again? To speak freely about relationship stress, to laugh about coworker exploits, and trade takes on the latest sci-fi flicks?
There was a time in my life when I didn't want to make a decision without vetting it through you first. You were my best friend and my most trusted sage. Sure, being forced to make choices without your help has been a healthy side effect of your departure. But I trusted your wisdom, and sometimes I wish I could still process some of my big decisions with your assistance.
You could say she's not right for me, and that I should let her go. Or that I'd be an idiot if I didn't fight for her heart.
But these days our conversations are limited to pickups and drop-offs, child-rearing standards, childcare expenses and clothing transfers. The interludes of true communication are bits of clarity in a sea of logistical white noise. And that's okay, because we don't really like each other anymore, and find ourselves surprised when we have conversations that? just? stretch beyond the one little human being we have left in common.
Not much of a love note, huh? Let me try again.
Thank you for almost nine years of big laughs, intellectual challenges, epic journeys, shared heartache, joy, tears, awe, travail. Thanks for caring about my health, and thanks for helping me through agonizing work situations.
If you hadn't come into my life, I may not have:
Published my first book
Gone to New Zealand, Morocco, South Africa and a plenitude of destinations both concrete and ephemeral
Discovered the sublime joy of a Nebraska porterhouse, served with iceberg salad and a plate of crispy hash browns
Reaped the rewards, even for a limited time, of being in the presence of your family
Learned that the difference between one and two packets of mild Taco Bell sauce on a bean burrito elevates the joy of consumption exponentially
Been inculcated into the essentials of moisturizer
To put the joy of our lives, our precocious offspring, into this list seems reductive. She is a dream, and I could never, ever, thank you enough for your part in bringing her to the world. J, whatever happens between us in the years to come, and despite the anger and hurt and sense of betrayal I've felt in the past, and could conceivably feel again from time to time, I will always love you for the gift of our Simone.
It's not the love we shared (or I think we shared? we did, right? That's what all of those notes are about that I came across in my cleaning efforts, right?), and it will never again be a full-fledged, heart-filling tidal wave of admiration and delight. In fact, it's barely there most of the time. It's deep, deep down, outside the range of my daily experience. And it's not about who you were or who you are.
It's a tiny spark of gratitude, of wonder, of humility. But it's there, and it always will be.
So there you go. Here's something I never thought I'd express to you again:
I love you.