It is Wednesday night in London, and I am running at the sunset hour; in the gloaming; in the perfect periwinkle light in Hyde Park before I am due to meet up with a friend for a drink.
It is: A Moment.
It is: The eve of the day I dread for 364 days of the year. It is the day before the fifth anniversary of the day the world began to end and it is also the eve of my grandfather’s 99th birthday. I try not to measure the world in the Things I Have Lost, but on these anniversaries, that seems particularly hard.
This year has been horrendous. That I have not relapsed has been a feat of strength, and will, and frankly, a goddamned miracle. My ego is crushed. I am exhausted.
I am facing this week on the cusp of Giving Up. I have been lying to myself and others about what is left in the tank, the way my old Honda used to lie to me. The dashboard gas gauge in that stupid car would read ¼ tank forever, then the warning light would flicker only when it was far too late to get to a gas station. I was never much of a risk-taker behind the wheel, and in particular, I never fancied the idea of playing petroleum-roulette.
But in the Honda, despite my best efforts, I wound up running out of gas three or four times a year. And now, here I am again, aware-yet-strangely-unaware of precisely when I will run out of fuel. I feel like I am a 1990s-model Honda Civic, when I am a woman who most recently drove a Jaguar.
Predictably, the friend who always turns up at precisely these moments has arrived in London, like Odysseus who forgot to cover his ears. And at times like these, I do not ask a lot of questions about meaning, or fate.
So I finish my run through the perfect London night, where for at least 45 minutes, everything is normal. Then I return to my room to shower and put on my brown dress that has become a security blanket, and then I rush out to meet for a nightcap. I wonder, for a moment, whether a nightcap is a stupid idea or a fine one, but it is no longer a matter for debate. It is happening; it simply IS.
Then I see the pub at which we are supposed to meet, and I walk right past it, into my friend. It is the same as it ever was. And I am glad.
We bask in the warm London night, and it is good. We are here, again, but for only a few precious hours, and we are laughing, and drinking, and I haven’t laughed in what feels like forever. I don’t even remember why I’m laughing. And I don’t remember London ever being so warm, or so starry, or clear.
Then the hours are getting on, and we walk back to my hotel to drop me off for the evening. And we joke for a moment about when we will next see each other, and I say that I do not know. And my friend says that we always seem to get together in London.
Then we embrace and say good night, and I try very hard not to think about anything at all as I head for the elevators and do not look over my shoulder. I do not think about the things that are right, or the things that might be wrong, or hotel lobbies, or the way the light is just so, or how the stars always seem to align, or the feeling of good night, or…any one thing.
I just think that it’s true – lately, everyone bumps into me in London. I am hard to reach in New York; I make myself deliberately unavailable in California and Washington and most of the other US-domestic and various international places I travel. But everyone seems to be able to find me here.
This must be the place.