I finally made it to London. It was Valentine’s Day, about which I could not have given a hang. By the time I arrived, I was, as the British say, knackered. I’d slept on the plane, but not very well. In part because I was sitting next to a celebrity baby, which was, all things considered, horrid.
I was also having anxiety about the trip: Should I have gone? Should I have cancelled it? Was it the right thing professionally? Was it the right thing personally? What was I doing, generally?
In short, what the hell?
I’d had a day of meetings booked solid, and I was supposed to have a nice dinner out. But my companion and I were both stuck at the office. Thankfully, I’d happened to have scheduled a nightcap with TenKey, who was also, briefly, in London.
So I met TenKey for a late drink at the bar. Neither of us had eaten dinner; we were exhausted. I was knocking back the Sauvignon blanc; he started on the aged rum. In a prior life, we might’ve been drinking whisky. We used to do that when he lived in New York. It was whisky and cigarettes, back when I was still married, and he lived on the Lower East Side. I was a stay-at-home-wife, and he was an accountant. We’d be in my Tribeca living room, or standing outside a dive bar, slumped against a stranger’s stoop, puffing on a hipster brand of smokes.
Our lives could not be more different now.
I fiddled with the winestem, and he held the tumbler close, and we talked business and life and love, as we were wont to do.
It seems weird that I see you more in London than I do in New York
It didn’t seem that weird to me. I make a life wherever I go these days. I have to live as if everything I do is perfectly ordinary or else I would have no life at all.
At some point, we became so faint and famished that we went up down over around to get someone to bring us some food. The waitress refused, but the concierge forced them to feed us from the room service menu.
Let’s not order any burgers, I said.
Neither of us relished eating horse. So we ordered some needlessly complex chicken curry club sandwich to split.
As we munched the food and talked more about life and love, I got to talking about my ex husband as I am wont to do.
(It should be clear by now — if it is not — that I hate being a divorcee.)
TenKey asked: Yes, but what did you like about your marriage? And I said some things; rattled a few moments off.
Then TenKey said: I remember that one Christmas party — and I tell this story about him — where he came out with his clarinet. I won’t forget that.
I smiled thinking of it. My ex husband had been an accomplished musician. He’d played in orchestras; bands. He’d played symphonic music and jazz most of his life. He came from a family of musical people.
It was 2007 or 2008, I don’t recall, I said. I didn’t remember if it was the year that the party was was small, or it was the Year That the World Was Ending, and it was the first snow, and we opened bottles of Dom Perignon at four and we carried on until nine o’clock in the morning. The memory was a bit hazy, now.
But yeah. We were all sitting there, and suddenly there was Andrew, in the hall with his Christmas tie and the clarinet, and he just started playing like mad. And it was jazz and he was good, like, really good.
I smiled — my eyes closed — remembering. You know, I said, That was the only time I ever heard him play. We were together for all those years, and I only ever heard him play that one time.
We sat for a moment, marinating in that knowledge.
It’s funny, in love, the things you remember and the things you don’t. And the parts of yourself and of your partner that you see and let be seen. The corners of the memory of the Christmas party are a bit fuzzy now, but I will not soon forget the sound of Andrew playing; the random jazz improvised in the living room at that one midnight.
And I will not soon stop wondering why it only happened that once.
TenKey and I finished up — I had drained the last of the wine a while back, and I sped him along in his spirits. We cheek-kissed goodnight, and I sent him off to his hotel, and I went upstairs to slumber for a few hours before a few more hours work and a flight to Paris to meet eee and PG.