But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.
– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

March 5th was my birthday, and that morning, I landed from sunny Johannesburg into snowy Paris.

Everyone loves the idea of Paris – Hemingway’s Paris – the very old city where you were young and you arrived at Gare du Nord with little else but a pocketful of francs and your schoolgirl French. Where you survived for weeks on the contents of your bulging backpack, and Orangina, baguette, and endless boxes of Petit Ecolier biscuits.

(It has been almost twenty years and I still cannot so much as look as a box of Petit Ecolier.)

I am here to break it to you: That Paris does not exist except inside your unreliable memories – and maybe never existed at all.

I had come unprepared for this trip.

I rarely travel with more than a carry-on suitcase, and this trip was no exception despite the tall order of multiple climates, countries, cities, and circumstances. But I had unexpectedly left 90F temperatures in Johannesburg and walked off the plane into subfreezing snowfall in Paris. My best-laid plans of wearing nothing more than a light jacket had gone horribly wrong and I was already mad at Paris again.

Paris was nothing but bad memories for me: Ex-husbands; ex-boyfriends; food poisoning; Roma picking my pockets; Frederic prattling on and on about how much more classically beautiful than me his first wife had been. It had gotten to the point where I’d begun to dread every trip to France. This trip’s sudden snowfall didn’t improve my view of the place.

(First world problems at their finest.)

On the morning of my arrival, I was meant to pick up a race number for a half marathon, and then I was to meet some friends for a late lunch. So I grabbed an Uber, and made my way out to the race expo at Parc Floral. I spoke my broken French to the young man who picked me up in a fancy Jaguar; marvelled at how little race security was in place at the expo; grabbed my number, then raced to the Latin Quarter to meet friends.

It was me and a motley crew of men who had come in from the US and UK. I had been promised a birthday lunch and wine, so we ordered racks and stacks of oysters and escargots and bottles of Sancerre to start the day. The seafood and snails were divine, and we quickly became Those Loud Americans.

Have you ever been a Loud American Abroad? The kind whose voice carries through the cafe, and the locals look at you contemptuously as they try to have their quiet, dignified lunches, like you’re a crying baby on a plane, or a horny young couple in a cinema whose necking blocks the view? We were that group of wine-soaked minor irritants to a restaurant full of French people on a cold March afternoon.

After a few hours, someone suggested we move along to another cafe, so we packed it in and headed down the Left Bank towards another picturesque spot. We traipsed across the cobblestones and down the alleyways, chatting and laughing about how simple and lovely it all was. We talked about life, and literature, and How Things Were. I felt light in the chilly afternoon, as my silly, long, schoolgirl hair swirled around me in the wind. If this was Paris After Everything, then it wasn’t so bad.

At our second stop: More oysters; more wine. A chat with an older American fellow with what sounded like a looted art collection and a passion for marrying younger women.

Finally, as the afternoon got smaller, we decided on a final stop before dinner. We stumbled past the Louvre on our way towards Le Meurice for an aperitif. (NB: The idea of an aperitif before a low-key dinner after an all-day pub crawl was borderline ridiculous, but after pub crawling for the better part of day, we didn’t have the mental faculties left between us to know better).

We arrived at the hotel into the middle of Paris Fashion Week festivities. The bar was closed for a private event, and the back room was set up for fashion buyers. One of my friends, insistent on his drink despite the fact that we had been rejected several times, finally approached the host and swore up and down that we were with the fashion event, but that he had to “impress the buyer” who had “grown tired of the free drinks” and wanted a lovely cocktail. He got us a table.

Pretend you’re a fashion buyer, he hissed in my ear.

Dude, I said, No way they are buying this. I am not even wearing make-up.

But we sat, and around came a beautiful bottle of dry champagne, which we sipped with delight before we were due for dinner just down the road. At the end of the bottle, I herded our group out the door. We met more friends for pasta, and another bottle or two of wine.

Towards the end of the dinner, the lights in the restaurant dimmed, and everyone began to clap and shout. Not understanding what was happening, I joined in the fun, until I looked up and saw that a cake was coming directly for me.

I laughed, and hid my head in my hands, then blew out the candles, and I thought how funny it was that in this very old city, where nothing was simple, I had unexpectedly discovered something new.

Paul was in town over the weekend, and we had made precisely No Plans, save for booking a reservation at Flex Mussels on Friday, and arranging a Bikram class on Saturday.

Friday turned out to be rather sour and humid. I left the office in a foul mood, and this could only be dealt with by rushing to have my nails done before meeting Paul.  Hearing myself detail these small things now seems ridiculous and superficial, but you must understand, my life has been utterly abnormal for the majority of this year.  To have an off-kilter day and then to simply leave midtown behind — and leave it for a such mundane pleasures as a manicure and mussels seemed rather luxurious.

For his part, Paul had somehow failed to connect that while it was chilly and rainy in Dublin, it was going to be hot and muggy in New York.  So he arrived in a leather-trimmed, wool henley, jeans and loafers, explaining to me that his new outfit was due to a friend taking him shopping on a  “Vampire Diaries” theme.  (Paul is notorious for his casual dressing; his friends have tried to get him to step up his wardrobe.)

Stop it, I said, jabbing a freshly-painted nail in his face, Just. Stop. Don’t say anything more.

Really.  There’s nothing more to say about someone having had the…audacity?…to attempt to dress up a large, rosy-cheeked former rugby player like a…vampire.

It took all my strength to contain my outrage in a mere raised eyebrow.  I did not attempt to obtain the name of the offending friend and send him a harshly-worded letter, even after Paul told me the story of this fellow trying to get him to wear skinny jeans.

Skinny jeans.

I did, however, force Paul to change out of the too-warm clothes before we headed into the East 80s for dinner, where I proceeded to hit the gin.  I used to think I didn’t like gin, but recently observed that I simply didn’t like Tanqueray; Bombay Sapphire; the aftershave-y taste of juniper.  Lately, I’ve been drinking Hendrick’s and it opened up a whole new world.

The problem was, gin made me mean.

So we were eating mussels and I was drinking gin, and yelling.  Yelling about things that might possibly happen in the future.  Screaming my head off about things that could and could not be done.

People at other tables stared.  And yet, I could not shut up.

In retrospect, this was hilarious.  At the time, it was less funny.

The next day, we went to yoga, after which, I offered Paul first dibs on the shower.  He emerged in a steamcloud of soap-smells, at which point I discovered that he had been using the dog’s shampoo.

Which one did you use?

I used the one with the pink cap.  The one that foams up?

That was dog shampoo.

In reality, it wasn’t that big a deal.  The dog shampoo was not going to harm him.  And as he later pointed out, it could easily be used as people shampoo too.

I suppose the thing is this: I try to control a lot of things.  I try to be the boss, and make everyone jump, and I refuse to believe that any way other than MY way is best.

But sometimes, I am going to be knee-deep in gin at dinner on the Upper East Side, screaming about things that might happen in the future — and really, I don’t know what the future will hold.  So I can’t be so rigid about what I will or will not do.

Sometimes, I need to not be the High Priestess of Appropriate Bath Products.  People can make their own decisions about which products they want to use.

Sometimes, I just need to be more flexible.

My whole life I thought being firm, and strong, and steadfast was the harder, more admirable way of being, but now I am finding that it is infinitely more challenging, and perhaps, rewarding to yield to change.

I am writing this after the fact.

It is the end of June, and I am not in New York, rather in California, on a girls’ weekend in Palm Springs with my best friend from UCLA, Tink.  We are staying at The Parker, and it is so perfectly mid-century modern, in the style of All That Is Palm Springs.

The last time I was in Palm Springs was in 2007, for Tink’s Bachelorette Party, when I was still sick, and still married, and hung up on a Whole Bunch of Things.  The world hadn’t yet ended, but it was hanging by a thread.  I’d flown on a stormy night to Ontario, CA, on the last JetBlue flight from JFK, then I drove through the dark desert in a rental car blasting Air Supply, Lost in Love.

We are having a fabulous time.  It is 120F in the morning, and nearly 130F at high noon, and we spend 2 days in the pool and drinking vodka drinks, and going to the spa, where the masseuse says: So the husbands are staying home with the kids?  She says it conspiratorially, as if we are all in on some great joke out here in the desert.

To spare myself having to go into the whole story of husbands and kids and lack there of, I simply say, Yes.  Yes, they are.  Because this is just a mirage, right?

Later, Tink and I sit by the pool, and marvel at how our bodies are better now in our thirties than they were on graduation day, over a decade ago.

**********************

It is Monday, now.

We left Palm Springs on Sunday afternoon, and today, I wake up in my parents’ house, in the room that used to be mine, in a twin bed acquired sometime during my university days.  I get out of bed and prepare for a run.  Because I have to.  Because it is marathon season; because I don’t know anything else.

I go for a run in my parents’ town; down the streets I tried to run as a girl, as a chubby teenager when the Santa Anas would leave me winded.

I don’t remember the Santa Anas now — the hot desert winds.  When I arrived on Friday, and we made our way East, there were hot winds blowing, and the feeling was foreign on my pale skin.  I had forgotten how this place could sear.

I am running.

I have run 12 marathons.

I have been married and divorced since I left this place.

I have long, blonde hair, plaited and hanging in two sweaty braids from under the hat I wear.

I wear a hat because I am afraid of wrinkles.

I wear European sunscreens because American brands are inferior; they are missing three key ingredients.

I am a yuppie asshole.

I am at Mile 4, and I am running past my old high school.  The gate is open; the fences are high.  It seems like it would be easier to get through airport security than into or out of the school we used to sneak out of at will.

It is so different.

I had been a student there around the time of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, when much of the campus had been damaged or leveled. There were fences; cracks; debris.  We didn’t even have a gymnasium until my senior year.  Now, it is a pristine, foreign land.  I am a stranger.

It is so different, and so am I.  But I am frozen in the Quad; frozen in time:  the girl with a frizzy-red bob, and a Prince racquet, and a serious stare.

Then I notice it, the “F” Building.  It bears Mr. Pew’s name.

IMG_1711

Pete Pew is dead.

He was the reason I became a lawyer.  Not that I didn’t always have the inkling, but he taught me how to take notes like a college student; taught me proper analytical thinking; gave me a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.  When I was a sophomore at UCLA, the fact of owning such a thing led me to a first date with George, which led me to pick the law school in the city in which we were both admitted to good law schools, which was what caused me to pick Georgetown over to the University of Michigan.

By virtue of being at Georgetown, I met Andrew and married him, which brought me to New York.

So that’s really how I made my way home to New York — a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

And what I am saying is this: onceuponatime, I was a little girl with strawberry blonde hair, standing in the middle of a broken place, in the high desert, holding a tennis racquet, dreaming very big dreams.  And not very long ago, I was a twentysomething woman, driving through the desert, on the cusp of things falling apart.

And now, after all this time, I am a big girl, and a grown woman.  And I can no longer hold a tennis racquet, and I no longer have a car.  But I have long blonde hair, and I live in New York City, and thanks to a lot of incredible people along this journey, I think I am doing okay.

Everything’s changing.

I notice it all around me.

It is Thursday, now, and a part of me feels like I have for days — maybe weeks — been saying words that mean things and words that don’t mean anything at all.  I have been using phrases that previously would’ve intimidated me.  I have been having conversations that mean something now that didn’t before.

It is strange, this empowering and intimidating vocabulary.

It is Thursday and I have meetings.  Meetings and meetings and I am wearing the same suit I was wearing on Wednesday afternoon, and no one is going to notice, and I really don’t care.

The meetings last for days — or what feels like it — until it is finally cocktail hour, and I find friends and sink into a Sauvignon blanc stupor.  I say semi-stupid things, because I am tired, and frustrated, and I have been going and going and going for weeks.

And I am wearing Wednesday’s suit, and I really don’t care.

You’re so different than when I met you two years ago, my one friend says.

But what she isn’t saying is that I use different words now.  I use the right words.  Until it is Thursday night, and I have had a few too many glasses of wine, and I am heartbroken over the things over which I will never have control.  And then I privately use all the wrong words in public.

We go and go and go.  We go until I forget where I am going and why.

We go until it is 2.00a, and I find I am accidentally at Armani/Prive with the guys, and we are talking about Annie Hall when someone brings us a bowl of gummi bears and marshmallows.

gummies

The gesture is aspirationally shady, as if to suggest something is Bright Lights, Big City on the opposite side of the world.  In fact, the circumstances are very much above 14th Street.

We talk about muses, and shiksas, and fathers and daughters, and being a parent.  Which I am not, but sometimes I think I wish I were.  In another life, I would’ve been.  If I hadn’t been in just this spot; if I hadn’t come to Hong Kong just five years ago, I probably would’ve been by now.

Er, could’ve been.

Everything’s changed.

We finish the conversation and part ways, and I retire for the night, shedding the big girl clothes, but keeping the grown-up words.  The authoritative; parental words.  It is Friday where I am, but Thursday afternoon in New York.  I reply to the Thursday afternoon messages in my serious voice before retiring for the night.  Morning.

And I change into my nightclothes so I can sleep.

Change.

TenKey came to town over the weekend, and we had one of those weekends that felt like the rising action in a Woody Allen movie — the part where the City itself is a character.  He and I have one of those easy, absurd relationships (as most of my relationships tend to be) where we sort-of just inherited each other, and stuck together, and wound up in cities all over the world together.

And now, when he comes to town, he sleeps on my sofa.

It was gorgeous in New York over the weekend.  It was one of those achingly beautiful New York weekends that you know won’t last; that you want to bottle up and keep and remember, because you know the summer will turn to crap.  You just know that the sucking, shit-smelling heat and humidity is right around the corner.

I went to the gym in the morning on Saturday, and TenKey slept in.  He’d been out late on Friday with friends, and I’d gone to bed early.  My non-running fitness regime, coupled with a brutal and shape-shifting work schedule, had zonked me by Friday.  I’d been sound asleep by 11pm.

So we took our differening schedules, and resolved to have a Saturday Morning.  One of those New York mornings where you have brunch outside at some local place; where TenKey and I would bitch about the quality of the coffee and tea.  Because we were well-known for being fussy like that.

Once he’d fully woken up and we’d both showered, we left to find a brunch spot.  When the vegan place was packed, we dialed down the yuppie asshole a notch, and settled on the Belgian place around the corner from me.  Peculiarly, in a two-block radius from my apartment, there are three Belgian cafes.  We sat outside under a patio awning and dined on exactly the things that hit the spot.

After Brunch, we walked the dog to the park at the end of my street (which is technically a silly thing to say, because I live a few blocks off Central Park on one end, and a few blocks off another park on the other end).

And then…crash.

We flopped on my sofa and watched the Greece vs Russia match, silently rooting for Greece.

I read some article saying that a Greek football victory was going to decide Greece’s economic future, I snorted.

Who wrote that? TenKey demanded.  He was a journalist — a professional blogger (the kind who actually got paid and ran a business) — of course he’d want to know who would pen such tripe.

I don’t know.  Someone on the Internet.

We both though on that, and then we didn’t.  Greece won.  I remembered that my toes were still painted “Dramatic Drachmas” — I’d not changed the polish and my badly-chipped pedicure was still sort-of holding up.

Then dinner.  We were off to a restaurant I love — modern British food.  I can’t escape the British, and I’m somewhat horrified that I actually love British food, since it’s notoriously bad.  But I like fish.  I like mushy peas.  I am a picky eater.  While I adore Asian food, I am a woman of contradictions, and on the other end of the spectrum, I like bland, plain, mashed up stuff.  That I would love a place that serves a lighter take on British food should come as a surprise to just about…no one.

We sat, with Kat and Matthew who had come to town, in the waning sunlight in an open area of this restaurant and laughed over a wonderful dinner.  Then we parted ways, with Kat and Matthew taking Roo with them so I could face a week on travel, and TenKey and I heading out to meet Kasey for a nightcap.

In sum, it was one of those days — long, lingering.  They didn’t come often, but each second of it had been absolutely perfect; cinematic.  Like the sky had been edited to Pantone 15-4020 Cerulean; like someone had scriped the screaming laughter in the park, and the Greek football win.  There had been fans blowing the perfect breeze; the friends had been shipped in from central casting.

It had been so perfect that it had almost felt like I was outside of it; looking in on it; not really living it.  Things that were perfect sometimes felt that way — like they couldn’t really be happening to me.  Was it possible to love something from a distance, even while one is living that very thing?

Sometimes I felt that way about my New York life.

For some reason, the Winesday crowd has experienced a number of romantic breakups lately. 

With that in mind, yesterday, we found ourselves in the midst of another breakup.  While Strand was upset, angry, and going through all of the motions and emotions of someone in the midst of a yucky situation – I was despondent.  As people began arriving at my house, I had put The Carpenters Radio on Pandora, and was laughing/sobbing into my champagne to the tune of Superstar

There was no good reason for this – I hadn’t been close to or even fond of the boyfriend in question.  My reaction was so comically inappropriate, it prompted Strand to say:

I feel like I should comfort you, Mere.

No, no, I’m fine.  It’s your break up!  (…sniffle, sniffle…)

Granted, I was still jetlagged, and had been through some high highs and low lows over the seven days prior.  But still. My friends and I are extremely close, and none of them had ever seen me cry – let alone openly weep over the end of someone else’s romance and the vocal stylings of Karen Carpenter.

We pondered whether there were any good men out there – faithful men; straightforward ones.  We made toasts to them: To JM, my dad, and one guy who lives in Albuquerque!

He’s probably a priest.

But what did it mean to be faithful, anyway?  Was there a fundamental difference between the immature, unfixably broken frenzy of people who kept  up their online dating profiles once in putatively committed relationships and cheated for cheating’s sake – and the people whose lefthand rings cut off their circulation in lost wars of attrition and so they sought  solace as they waved white flags?  Was I naïve to think there was such a difference?

Judge me for thinking so.  But having once found myself at such a threshold – crossing back over; walking back down the aisle – my definitions had changed.  Yours might’ve too.  So I’ve looked at love from both sides, now.

But this underscores a very serious point:  I love cheesy love songs.  When I was going through the early stages of my divorce, and I was out in California with a client, they piped satellite radio into the “war room.”  I am not sure whether they ever realised that I had surreptitiously tuned us into the “Love Songs” station.  (If you’re familiar with Sirius, you are well aware that this station is like a package of Kraft American Singles – 100% processed cheese.) 

If the client noticed, they were painfully polite in not pointing out the periodic interludes of Sometimes When We Touch.

People are obviously programmed to love love songs.  (You are lying if you tell me you haven’t sat weeping in your whisky over Turning Tables, or Someone Like You.  Lying.)  I was raised on classic rock.  My father woke us up every Saturday by blasting The Doors.  LA Woman is permanently ingrained in my psyche as the tune to which one should clean house.  And I love that.  But good heavens!  I love love songs.  I’ll take the folk singers; I’ll take the crooners.  American country?  Dogs and trucks and tractors and State Fairs and Greyhound buses and things for which I have no frame of reference but find sort of charming – yes.  Doo wop?  Absolutely.  Elvis?  100%.  Lay the cheese on thick and rich, like nacho sauce at a sporting event.

Cheesy love songs are a part of my soul; my every day.  However, I generally do not sit at my table amongst friends, simultaneously laughing and crying, as Miss Mal and Strand do the Macarena, and wear silly hats, and wreak havoc on cheating cheaters who cheat, as was the case last night.

What is wrong with me? I sobbed, while Karen Carpenter crooned We’ve Only Just Begun.

You hold on to things.  You’ve got a filing cabinet full of notes and letters…you don’t let go.

Yes.  I was holding on to things.  And the past week had brought breakups and makeups and roses and kisses and catharsis, and finding out for certain things hadn’t been my fault at all.  And going back to places that hurt and finding my way over, under, around and through.  Bit by bit, letting go.

Then flying home, and sitting in a familiar circle, and dreaming better dreams, and knowing that there was, and would be, and is love among the ruins.

Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and I are hosting our own Reverb11, a series of prompts to look back on 2011 and manifest the new year.  Please check our Reverb11 pages for details, and join in!

Prompt for December 21: DecisionWhat big decision(s) did you make in 2011?  How will those decisions affect your 2012?

I can trace all of the big decisions of the year back to one week in London in May.

That I had decided to go in the first place was indicative of sea change.  I generally avoided London — it was a place to pass through; it sprawled incomprehensibly; it was the Los Angeles of Europe.  The weekend before I left, a school friend and her husband had come into town, and we’d gone to the birthday party of another friend at a rooftop bar.  It was slightly chilly night at the end of May.  Bill was mid-exit from my life.

When there’s infidelity, there’s often that stunned phase at the end of the relationship where you can still stand to be in the same room, but you stare at each other in a state of what the fuck.  Maybe it’s Kubler-Ross-esque – that falling-action into denouement.   On the day I left for London, my friend’s husband, the MacGuyver of Amish Country, had prayed over us.  I think that startled Bill – that I was actually that kind of Christian, the kind who relished having people praying in my foyer.  (Love, faith, and hope are scary.  Involving others in any of the aforementioned is an exquisite kind of discomfort.)

The prayer ended; the friends left; I got on a plane.  For the first time on travel, I left my wedding band at home.

There was lots to do once I arrived in London, but among those things was deciding when we’d order in Chinese for lunch.  We decided Monday.  My fortune cookie read:

 

I laughed, because I had no intention of it.

However, the next day I met someone who looked a bit like Frederic and a lot like my friend who always shows up at exactly the right time.  This Englishman asked me to dinner.  Under ordinary circumstances, I’d never have agreed to go out – I don’t date, really.

But for many reasons, I said yes, and dinner turned into a nightcap…

(We’d wanted to remember what we were drinking.)

Late drinks became lunch the next day and Why don’t you stay the week-end and come to this barbeque with me?  My friends are hosting.

I’m meeting my parents in Edinburgh then on to Dublin.

I’d like for you to come.

There were other events in London that week – dinners and reconciliations; deciding that a friendship was worth fighting for; foolishly opting to take a taxi through Berkeley Square with strangers as Miss Mal (who’d come to town) sang in her soprano:

I may be right, I may be wrong,
But I’m perfectly willing to swear
That when you turned and smiled at me,
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

We danced till champagne o’clock, courtesy of our benefactors. The next day, still winesoaked, I arrived in Scotland in time for dinner.

I sat through dinner with the family – Mums, Dad, Auntie, Uncle – in which we discussed my future.  Uncle Sam spoke for the group:

We’ve all been together forever, so we don’t know what you’re going through.  But I think, Mere, I think that you’ll probably wind up with someone you’ve been friends with for a long time.

I thought on that.  I thought about my friends; the ones on whom I relied.  That night I went back to the hotel and I cancelled the flight to Dublin.

What did you decide?

I decided to come back to London.

The next morning, I got on a train, deciding to take a chance.  As it happened, that day was Frederic’s wedding day.  Would he call from Denmark? Once I arrived in London, I decided to turn off my phone for the weekend.

The Englishman and I went to his friends’ barbeque.  There was laughter, drinking, and fun.  We were all very familiar, despite having just met.  The hostess and I resolved to stay in touch as I left.

I was back in Paris and London ten days later:

Paris changed things.  Getting to know someone is hard work.  The current went up and down.  None of it made sense; there was a lot of mind-changing; plan-changing.  There were beautiful moments.  Laughter, levity.  Me screaming and twisting on the end of a long wire.  Deciding not to overthink, then thinking: Grow up, you fool.  You are not the Hugh Grant character in a rom-com.

Maybe people can’t be changed.

The upshot was that I decided to laugh at myself more.  I decided to stop taking all the advice of friends, because friends are well-meaning, but they’re not always right.  Summer faded into Autumn as things fizzled and faded; circuits lost polarity, only to occasionally flare.

I got sick in September.  Being sick brought me to my knees.  I celebrated what would’ve been my sixth wedding anniversary feeling like the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song — something off of For the Roses.

The day after my anniversary, the friend who always managed to show up in the nick of time — the one who the Englishman looked like — arrived in New York.  I’d always known that you know some people by heart upon meeting — I knew Frederic that way; I recognised the Englishman’s friends that way.  I’d met this particular friend years ago, and had known him instantly by his voice.  He said we’d known each other in a past life.  Maybe we had.

He came uptown on a September afternoon and we talked.  And there were moments between us, too, that were not hotels and airports, but perfectly ordinary Upper East Side moments.  I decided that day that there was magic in the ordinary.

The Autumn dragged into October, then November – more illness; more wake-up calls (literal, figurative).  I decided I couldn’t keep living the way I had been, but I didn’t know anything else.  I was back in London and elsewhere; back in New York.  I arrived in London again in November – post-marathon; post-Washington; head spinning; spent.

At the moment of my bending-but-not-breaking, my friend again arrived.  Startled by the happy accident, we spoke in present tenses in a hotel bar.  Can you make decisions without knowing you’re deciding?  I decided over drinks that complicated things are actually quite simple as long as you bother to show up for the challenge.

Before leaving London to go back to New York, I cracked a fortune cookie in my office.

You had to be kidding me.  At that point, I decided my whole fortune cookie thing was bullshit.

November shattered into December, and my head wasn’t spinning any less.  So early in December, I had decided to have dinner with a friend in from London – the hostess of the barbeque back in May.  The Englishman and I had fallen in and out but had kept talking; the hostess and I had stayed in touch throughout the adventure.

She and I met at a rooftop bar at a hotel on the West Side; she introduced me to some of her friends.

I feel like I’ve known you forever, she said over drinks, and I felt the same way about her, just as I’d felt when I met her in May.  We chatted about our lives to date; about things to come, then moved on to dinner with in the West Village.

Dinner was lovely — the company more so.  We parted ways on a chilly December night, resolving to meet up in London in the New Year.

This year was all decisions, you see — jump started by the decision to get on a plane in May — to accept the care of the people who pray; to leave Bill behind; to say yes to dinner; to forgive; to get on a train.  It was the decision to laugh; it was the decision to let things go; to cut my losses and move on.  It was the decision to rejoice in the magical mundaneIt was decision to stay; decision to leave.  The decision about the simple and complex; decisions that ripple.  Decisions not to decide.  Decisions to know people by heart; to be open to hope, faith, and love.

A series of decisions that were prefaced by a West Side rooftop had an epilogue on a West Side rooftop, too — this time, in a hotel bar.  Of course, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.