I pulled the car into the tiny lot and tried to figure out which building she’d walk out of. She’d called it a carriage house, but carriage houses didn’t look like any of these buildings in my head. I almost felt sorry for her. The long walk to the car knowing I was watching. I’d convinced her to meet me for lunch rather than wait until evening.
Neither of us was interested in more waiting.
She came out in a long pencil skirt with shiny black boots. Her swagger more swaggery than usual with the skirt and the heels and the nerves. Her sunglasses took up half her face. She was looking off to her left. She spent the next half hour like that. Even when I kissed her, she didn’t look at me.
But that was later. The kiss.
Now, she climbs in the car and says, “Don’t be nice to me. I’ve had a terrible morning. It’s all gone sideways and CPS is coming to pick up a kid, and a mother is getting discharged and if you’re nice to me I’ll never stop crying.”
“Would you like to hear some jokes? I tell wretched jokes.”
To be honest, she was already crying. She’d walked out of the building crying. She just wanted me to know it wasn’t me.
Can I explain to you how those first five minutes with this girl were all the things? That crazy sashay skirt, the boots with the tiniest little heels you’ve ever seen, the giant Jackie O sunglasses. The crying. Who meets you for the first time and demands that you not be nice?
She’s a fucking weirdo. And more than that, she’s my fucking weirdo. A woman with a job that kicks her into pieces and every day she pulls herself together and keeps kicking ass for these women and their kids.
Four years. I’ve been with this woman for four years. My entire life shaped by those first steps to me. The refusal to make eye contact. My terrible jokes.
She told me I’m her guard against cynicism. The way she learned joy. But what has she done for me? I get to be still. Every day I think of the way she needed me to distract her from calamity, from sorrow, so she could rest. For half an hour. With me. That’s all love is, motherfuckers. Be still. Be brave enough to be still. Unless you’re the other half. And then be brave enough to cross the lot. You don’t even have to look at her. You don’t have to stop crying.
Nobody needs fixing. What we need is grace. A good redemption story. A woman crosses a lot prepared to take me exactly as I am.
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