I am dumbstruck with gratitude for life's whimsies and serendipities. Grateful for butterflies, lemonade stands, tulips in bloom, for biscuits and gravy, for coffee and cigarettes, for unexpected, starkly delineated cold fronts and patches of warm sunlight through the clouds.
I'm grateful to know that sometimes an old flame can get in touch and say he wants to catch up…and that's really all he wants.
Don and I met for brunch today. I was late, but I believed him when he said he didn't care. He was halfway through his first cup of coffee when I arrived, and despite the almost year and a half that had passed since we split up and almost immediately stopped speaking, it felt as if we'd never parted ways.
We barely had time to get to know each other, but we…I think we get each other. No. I know we do.
By our vague calculations, Don and I dated for about two weeks. It was the fall of 2010, and it was doomed, of course: I was still hung up on the Knight — whose nickname just slays me at this point, as no one with an ounce of valiance would still refuse to make eye contact in a café after more than a year apart, but that's neither here nor there — and in the end, Don was still hung up on the woman he's just now separating from.
But it was a courtship of 3-D glasses and Crystal Garden kisses, of coffee breaks and midday cupcakes in the Loop. Our time was split between his basement apartment full of stage props and framed photos, and my Wicker Park studio that never stood a chance against my love for Lincoln Square.
It was over in an afternoon. I don't remember whether I cried. I do remember spending an hour barefoot on the sidewalk outside Don's apartment, screaming through my phone at the man I hated and was still infatuated with. (I haven't come very far from there, to be honest.)
I left and it was done. Down the rabbit hole.
I assumed I'd lost him forever.
It's thrilling to watch someone else emerging from that shadowy place where you've lost so much of yourself that it seems impossible to recover…but you fight for it anyway. In dealing with a new breakup, Don's embracing the vices he can control and reclaiming himself through a series of tiny rebellions. I love him for that.
I love him for a lot of things. Ranking high among those things: He was never scared to proclaim love, even if it seemed too soon with me. He loves deeply and completely, and in a lot of different ways. To the point where this world alone can scarcely contain his heart.
To the point where he's kind of stupid about it. Which he readily admits.
One of the reasons we get each other: We're equally stupid in matters of the heart. We are idiots who trust one too many times that things can get better; he talked about his savior complex today, the feeling that he alone can be enough to fix it. Whatever "it" is. Yes.
We finished eating and walked down Leavitt to Roscoe Village. We sat on a bench and drank more coffee while I waited for the bike shop to finish replacing an inner tube on my bike. We talked about "The Hunger Games" and Mike Daisey and our respective relationships and the gorgeous stereo he gave me to celebrate my three-year anniversary in Chicago. We'd only just met. It always reminds me of him, but it was almost too much on the weekends I'd hear him shilling on air during the WBEZ pledge drive.
I didn't realize how much I'd missed him until we said goodbye on the corner of Irving Park and Damen. I could have stood there and stood there and stood there, wrapped in the arms of another chance at friendship with this man.
I'm grateful for my cold-front-frozen fingers on this keyboard, writing the beginning of what I hope is a lovely new story.