June 19, 2011

"Title and Registration"

I didn’t think I would be able to go out that night. My face looked like I had an allergic reaction to a bee-sting - swollen, puffy, red-rimmed eyes. She said that she thought I should come. It would be good for me. She was stronger than I, perhaps, in soft leather booths and swept up hair. Eye make-up in her hands. I asked if I could wear a hooded sweatshirt. She told me I could, if it was the only thing that would enable me to go, but that I should try a little bit and put on something else. Again, she said it would be good for me.

I walked back downstairs and stood in my closet. Thought about curling up in the corner and closing my eyes and waiting until morning. I ran my finger across the shoulders of hangers, stopping at each black top, and then up and down the piles of sweaters, again lingering on black. I glanced back at my hooded sweatshirts and chose a blue sweater with a blazer. Negotiated that the combination felt like a sweatshirt but with more form. Reminded myself that I saved black to pair with dark eyeliner and my black hat to declare boldly, “I will defy you.” Whoever “you” may be. Almost always myself. I reasoned that I could not claim this feeling as defiance. I could do nothing more than continue to breath in and out. So I slipped into the blue sweater and discounted most make-up but ran a straightener through my hair. We walked down the stairs in complementary boots.

We chose a small Thai place towards the corner of downtown and promised ourselves we wouldn’t see peer faces or hang ours in shame. I couldn’t claim shame anymore than I could claim defiance. I hadn’t stepped out of the house in the 24 hours since we found out, still hadn’t uttered the news out loud to people who would have wanted to know in the immediate aftermath moments. I didn’t know what to expect from friends who hadn’t held that title in my life for very long. Walking across the parking lot, I grabbed the hand of the one who had held that title for years. Other than her, I wasn’t sure I could face...anyone.

They spotted us through the glass door and didn’t hesitate a moment before gathering us into a hug. I let go of every muscle in my body and they held me up. And I suddenly knew I would be okay. We left it all, right there in the doorway, wrapped up in a hug.

We took a table in the corner, for privacy and peace and avoidance. She came bounding in with mania and a twirl. “Celebrating!” she squealed and we smiled. Awkwardly. And I knew my red-rimmed eyes must have faded. I suddenly wished I had worn the black-eyeliner and that black hat. She chattered on about her non-date and failed to see our darting eyes. It rose quickly and unexpectedly. I made the mistake of glancing across the table and meeting their eyes. Two pairs holding back and holding down. It was too much. We burst. Burst into laughter and leaned into the table and wiped our eyes. She stood confused, but we couldn’t stop. And we couldn’t explain. I felt badly after she left. But who expected such laughter to come after such devastation? Who knew I would laugh again so soon? So fully and so completely. As if I had not laughed in years.

We ordered champagne. We toasted failure. The bubbles rose as our glasses clinked. I wrestled the chaos in my head: failure, fear, shame, disappointment, sadness, uncertainty against the feeling that this is exactly the way it is supposed to be. I chose only what I knew to be true as I took the first sip: friendship always rises to the top - old friends and new. We finished that bottle and ordered a second. We laughed loud enough for the neighboring tables to look over and smile. “Celebrating!” she had exclaimed. We were too, I realized. Celebrating friendship, yes. But I also had already overturned the tiniest thought, planted the smallest seed of inquiry - what if this failure brings me more than if it had been a success?

We finished the second bottle of champagne, paid for the Thai food, and walked through the late September night into a cozy, almost underground bar with leather seats and painted books on the walls and ordered martinis. Cozy girltalk with a best friend and two girlfriends who could turn into best friends and the bar tender just smiled at us from across the mahogany and the backs of our leather seats. When I looked in my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I realized I was still smiling. Deep creases and a twinkle of more than alcohol in my eye.

Restless, we a moved couple blocks towards the water. Requested darts and a round of drinks. We hit the floor more often than the bull’s eye before deciding to hand the darts back across the bar. We laughed. The men in the corner stared. Until the boyfriends met us and we grew restless again and trekked back to the dark bar and the leather seats. Silly and unattached, I flitted among the girlfriends and boyfriends, sipping their drinks until she and the boyfriend collected me to go home. Goodbye, my friends, I adore you.

We walked out into the late September night, and I held her hand on the way to the boyfriend’s car. She twirled me on the brick sidewalks and I squealed in warm night air. October would drop the temperature and the chaos that rose with the first champagne bubbles would return, but that night I knew I would be okay. That night the thought that the worst will end up being the best had taken root. Almost two years later, it still grows. And friendship still rises to the top.

Related: Untitled; From the Department of Internet Dating; In Which I Write To Sort Things Out (And Don't Really Expect You To Get To The End, Promise)


  1. When I read your writing, the whole world goes quiet. It's beautifully peaceful.