Part Two: Spring (See Part One: Winter)
We met for dinner the next evening at a Persian restaurant somewhere in Cole Valley. This matters because Persia is the setting for a story I’m writing, the one I’ve been telling for over five years, the one I had told him the evening before. I hadn’t expected that he would remember.
I parked my car down the street from the restaurant where he was pacing outside as the dusk turned to twilight. As soon as I reached him, he moved close to kiss me and I was surprised by how perfectly normal that seemed, amazed by how quickly our hands slipped together.
We sat at a two-top a feet from a fire, which I typically would have been fixated on. Our server approached and welcomed us in, mentioned a few specials, and asked if we had any questions. We didn’t. At least not about the menu. She came back again, then a second and third time.
“Did you make any decisions? Can I answer any questions?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “We haven’t even looked.”
We broke for a moment to talk about dinner. Remarkably, I don’t even remember what we ordered, aside from some hummus and a bottle of wine, but I do remember that I didn’t much care, which was strange for a woman whose world revolved around food. I ate most of my meal using only one hand because the other was clasping his fingers.
When our meal was over we lingered outside, but the night was too chilly to stay out for long. Bars were too noisy. Coffee shops closed. So I drove to his apartment and he invited me in to have tea.
“You know, I typically don’t do this on a second date,” I said with a smile, though I was absolutely serious. He was breaking my mold.
We proceeded to see each other every day for two weeks, taking a one-night break only because I’d made a commitment before I knew this could happen.
In the span between encounters we sent emails and texts:
“Just wanted to say that you’ve been on my mind.”
“In case you didn’t know, I think I kind of like you.”
“Only 6 more hours till I see you again.”
“4 more hours.”
It was ridiculous and sort of nauseating and I loved every bit of it.
We talked constantly—about justice and failure and living overseas, our struggles with purpose, our need to have impact—and in the moments we weren’t talking (which were not that many), we’d stare at each other in deep earnest silence, his eyes dark as pools and soothing as campfire.
Almost every day for the first month we took turns making the statement, “I can’t believe I’ve only known you for 5 days,” and I literally could not believe it.
I didn’t call my parents for at least three weeks. I wasn’t ready to tell them that something had happened, and I knew they’d be able to hear it; the giddy in my voice would give me away.
I loved falling in love with him, and falling was exactly how it felt. Like falling down the stairs or getting caught in the pull of a rip tide, drug underwater and then flung topsy-turvy with no time to worry about how it would end. I wanted to be cautious, so cautious, with something as fragile as my still-healing heart, but I was moving too quickly to stop; caught in a rush of desire and delight, my head still spinning as my feet hit the ground.
I remember it as a season that neither of us slept. There was just too much to learn to waste time being unconscious. We’d try setting alarms and fixing boundaries that neither of us wanted to keep. He would inevitably hit snooze and I’d ask him for “just ten more minutes.” There was one night early on that he missed the last train for San Francisco, so I offered to drive him across the bridge back home. The 15-mile trip should have taken a mere 20 minutes, but I missed an exit or two and got lost in West Oakland. What surprised me about this wasn’t my error—I’ve never been good with directions—but how little it mattered that we’d gotten off track. Of course I would take him. Of course it was fine.
When you fall into eros, when you end up obsessed, there is only the other to be thought of and seen, not for what he can give, but for all that he is—the perfect imperfect that makes him himself.
Valentine’s Day was a Sunday that year, sunny and warm and nothing like my memories of the Februarys before. I woke up and made coffee, got ready for church, and wrote a long letter before heading out the door. I stopped myself on my way up the steps and turned to look back at the deck straight behind. The plum tree was covered in lacy white blossoms, a hand-crafted veil of delicate spring. The early change in California seasons is something that still shocks me each year. Fragile little petals now shrouded the branches that had been naked and stark less than two weeks before. Life had come quickly and it left me in awe.