Today is the Knight in Shining Camry's birthday. And that whole…job thing? It's keeping me from a day-long celebration of his splendor. So this morning, I'm going through the things I've written about him — more privately, in the Blog of My Past Life — and wishing I could put it all here. To introduce him to you. But there are a lot of details, a lot of things I'd have to edit down. Instead, I'll share this, a revelation that much my life has changed profoundly in the past few months. Which has been more than I could handle at times. But I'm learning. The problem with loving my neighborhood enough to stay in it for two years? A lot has happened in this neighborhood. A lot of retraced steps, a lot of reminders. A lot of opportunities for old wounds to catch on a familiar scent or sight and rip open, just as I thought I was healing.
Last year on September 22, I left my guitar class beaming, the chords to a Wilco song surging through my fingers. The song, fittingly, was "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." I'd never heard it before. I knew a certain male disaster was familiar with the band's music, though, and I couldn't wait to play it for him. We had agreed to meet by the bleachers next to a baseball diamond near both our apartments. I arrived first and took my guitar out. Fiddling. The nervous energy coursing through me was enough to make me twitch; after much back and forth, I had written him a long e-mail and sent it off just before bed. We made plans to discuss "us." It was the second in a long line of truly disastrous nights in that so-called relationship, probably the worst one I can remember. I never did write about what happened that night, and I won't now, but there in the crisp night air, he said things. Things that made me think we might actually work out. Or I let myself believe we could. Now? Even on the sunniest Saturday, when the bleachers are filled with screaming parents cheering on their Little League players in their tiny caps and uniforms, I close my eyes and see the empty bleachers, covered in a thin layer of dust blown off from the diamond. Me, sitting there, waiting for him to show up. Waiting for him to break my heart again. Without even trying.
And I was there again one night in mid-June. Staring at the empty bleachers as the sun went down behind the buildings on Western Avenue. Sitting with the Knight in Shining Camry, on the other set of bleachers by the same baseball diamond. He'd bought a cellophane sleeve of snapdragons and a bottle of Pellegrino from Trader Joe's and made me dinner. He fits so perfectly in my little apartment, barefoot in my kitchen, the hem of his khakis dragging on the floor. Half the ingredients he bought wound up in the sink; he's not a cook and readily admits it. We stuffed ourselves on pasta with peas, mint, rosemary, parsley and scallops. We got rid of the parsley we didn't use and shared a long, knowing look as I opened the garbage can to throw it in. Then we went out for a walk. And we found ourselves there at the bleachers, watching three guys — stairsteps in age — practicing their pitching. The kid standing on the mound wound up and threw a scorcher, and it landed with a stiff slap in the catcher's mitt. "Damn! That kid's got some fire in his arm!" John laughed and threw his arms around me, and I wriggled into the space between his shoulder and elbow. Then, without hesitation, he told me he loves me. I didn't say it back; I didn't say much at all. Crippling fear might best describe my reaction to what he said. So I kissed him. Kissed him and tried to remember how different this all is. Then I looked over at the other set of bleachers as long shadows fell over the metal benches, and I started to cry.