“Things I Would Like to Do with You.” is now available! It’s eco and lovely. Get your copy here.
“There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.” ~ Walt Whitman
I would like to ask you out, again.
But for years it has been: you live there, I live here, you love him, I love her.
But now he is gone and now she is gone and I would like to ask you out, again. So I do.
I have asked you out three times over six years, and I would like to hear you say yes.
This time, you say, “Yes.”
So I would like to fly out to take you out to dinner. So I do.
And I would like it to be romantic, and real, not a source of stress or pressure: so I have another excuse to fly out—a film debut of two dear friends of ours.
So I fly out.
There are many beautiful men and women and trees and clouds and snowfalls and books and seashells, and you are one of them.
And it is a long time ago, now, and I have a busy mind and life, without much space in either—so looking at those five days in River City by the City, and Gray Skyscraper City, is like looking through a snowfall. But I can still see what happened, if I am still. I leave our memories only reluctantly—I am happy—content, I should say—for happiness is a thing to get and to lose, and contentment or cheerfulness is a state of being.
So I flew to you.
Leaving my hometown is always like briefly parting from a lover who I thoroughly enjoy. Bittersweet. I am busy, I am content, I am social, I am quiet, I climb, watch a movie then fall asleep, I take yoga classes with teachers I respect and enjoy, I play with Red dog, we hike, I eat, I dine, I network, I event, I party, and mostly I work. Removing myself from my life is hard, for it is full, and it is structured to support my activities. My business is growing, and my business is my vow: to be of benefit. And I do not like doing things that do not help me to fulfill my duty.
But, Gray Skyscraper City, in the late fall; bicycling, taking you out to dinner; bars; high old architecture unlike anything in Redland; nearly visible ghosts of history on every corner; supporting the film premiere of two dear friends? I would like to go.
And so I leave, and so I soon arrive, and I take an airport cab to River City by the City, to Citypark, to my favorite vegan restaurant that is so good that when friends join me there for a meal, they redefine what they think of as vegan. In the oldyellow cab, I see the black blue night and lit-up Gray Skyscraper skyline to my right. Timeless. I go to the restaurant, where the founder meets me, and takes me to her apartment (I am renting a room from her). And I leave, and I borrow a bike from a dear lifelong young Buddhist friend, a new mother with another lifelong Buddhist friend mother.
It is late Autumn. Cold, but when I arrive, cool. And it is cool for the five days I am in Gray City, which is lucky for me since I like to bicycle everywhere.
My borrowed bicycle is a mountain bike, and I have never ridden a mountain bike in all my life: I love it! I immediately fall in love with the tough wide tires that can handle urban bumps and potholes, and the shocks, that let me jump off curbs and land smoothly. I enjoy the zig and zag in aggressive Gray City traffic, which is a good thing—it is a video game with one life out there. The safe, separated bike lanes are great in Gray Skyscraper City—better than Green City, which prides itself on bike-friendliness—but there are only bike lanes in some places. In others it is survival of the most aware.
I bicycle all over, every day but the last, when I am sick of constant activity and ready to be quiet and work. I meet friends for food and I work at cafés on my laptop and I go out and I bicycle here and there and pop into cafés when I see them and work, drinking rich brown coffee.
On the second day I meet you at A Museum, and we see Magritte, with another friend of yours. I like his sense of humor. I did not know Magritte, well, but five minutes in I am a fan.
I had forgotten how low your voice is, you sound like a smokey seductress out of an old Film Noir. But you look like a Kennedy sister. You are quirky, relentlessly thoughtful not just about me and how I am and what I think and am doing but about everyone you meet, whether you know them or not. You smile readily, and listen with wide eyes, taking in everything: sharp, present.
Afterward, we drink at a wonderful old real Irish bar, one that tourists do not like. There are police badges lined up above the bar. I ask the bartender what I should drink if this were my one time in the bar, ever, and he gives me his favorite. Soon, I ask him what I should drink if I were to have two drinks, ever, and he laughs and I drink that. And I have been bicycling around, and sweating, and I am wearing an expensive men’s cologne that is not cologne, it is just crushed up pine, and essential oils, in glass. Hipster cologne. And your friend says I smell like a Christmas tree. And so in the future I go a little lighter on the stuff. Later, I bicycle home, in the lit-up night, across the River City Bridge, over the cold blueblack water, lights of the great City to my left and right. The wood rails ratatat and t-t-t-tatitter below my tires.
Being alone in Gray City can feel desperate, and cold, and heavy…or it can feel grand, and romantic. Tonight, it feels epic, in black-and-white.
The next day is the film premiere of our two mutual dear friends, one of whom is your roommate and my former editor. We all four meet for morning coffee together at your local café.
Later, we all meet for the film premiere, and later, we walk to the afterparty—you and I inviting folks who should have been invited and helping to move the walk and buy a few drinks and raise a few toasts and chat with a few ignored guests…and I appreciate that you, like me, are a natural host—you keep your eyes up and humor on because you enjoy caring. You make shy people laugh and take the time to introduce would-be friends and business connections who should be connected. A womanhunter friend of mine asks if you are single and I imply you are not, though I cannot claim you.
Finally, the third night, I take you out to dinner. Not just a dinner at a restaurant—but a fancy arty pop-up event dinner in an old former warehouse—forty-five strangers at a long table, a band (family friends of mine, beautiful, creative, talented, ambitious, cheerful, cold) singing and playing during and after the meal—but then you have to leave. You are legitimately busy, in grad school, and you really tried to cancel your meeting. You are a Gray City woman—beautiful, strange, cosmopolitan, thoughtful yet independent, working hard to build something worthy.
And that is what I get when I am attracted to powerful women:
So I would like to talk more, and drink or kiss after, but you leave. And I go back to work, at a favorite old café in the Neighborhood that I used to like working at ten years ago. It is nice. An hour passes, and another.
And then you are done, and you text, and we meet for a drink back in River City by the City. So I bicycle over the old bridge, again, and enjoy the skyline, again. Her Statue on one side, the great tall rocket Building on the other. Bringing me back to memories and forward to dreams. Gray Skyscraper turns into River City, and I see you at a small bar, and we drink, and celebrate, and our friends join us later on, and we get to know, one on one, and it is good.
The next day I am bicycling again, and it is so warm I am in a tee shirt though it is nearly Winter. I spend a quiet day working, and I am tired. And the next day I see you for coffee, only I am late, and I rush over and just catch you, but you invite me to walk you to your apartment (or I invite myself), and we have a magical twenty minutes, talking, getting to know.
And you are gone. And later that day, I am gone.
But it is the first time we have connected like this and there will be more to come. We will make love in the mountains, and we will laugh loudly and talk quietly and lay silently and think into one another, and fall in love.