I fell in love with a man who has never been married, never had kids and has only lived (briefly) with one girlfriend in all his 47 years—signs that our current issue would, in fact, be an issue. But, it didn't matter. He gave me music and an easiness I never had in countless (failed) relationships. He was smart, funny in the stupidest way, easy on the eyes, loving in action. He valued independence and separateness, just as I did, except those two qualities extended to living quarters. I lived west of the Hudson. He lived east of the East. Lower Manhattan separated us. This geography wouldn't matter so much if we were in our 20's, but we were in our 40's. I have two, young children on the autism spectrum. I work as a teacher in an urban high school filled with chaos, crushing poverty, violence. I have a high tolerance for the complicated and difficult, and I could go on for years dividing my time between two homes several miles apart, but I no longer wanted to. I wanted to sleep in the same bed every night with the man I loved, so I sent him a link to Cobble Hill Towers and a message: "I know this will piss you off. I love you so much. Let's begin talking about a happy medium for both our needs. I know you hope I'll drop it, but I won't. Until then, I will keep pushing the idea of us to live together. You're hot (the hottest!)! The buildings where Iris Cafe is. There's a 3 bedroom. I can pay the maintenance and taxes. You know you love it over there!" This wasn't the first time we discussed moving in together. We were at this crossroads off and on, for about a year. He had a hard time dealing with children on a regular basis, so he said, you wouldn't know it by seeing him interact with them. My kids adored him and he adored them. We even broke up because of this, the kids and living together, but I missed him too much. I promised him when we got back together that I'd accept things as they are—that we'd never live together. I accepted it in order to be back with the man I love.
"But that doesn't fit my needs!"
At least this time he wasn't a jerk.
Problem is, I have the tendency, as many girls do, to see everything in black and white—he loves me / he doesn't love me. He's my boyfriend / we're broken up. I've never been sure how to navigate the reality of the gray, the ambivalence, doubt, confusion, monotony—us girls (I say us, because I've never known any girls who have gone against this grain, no matter how tough they appear. We pretend we don't want this marriage fantasy, but we mostly do.) have years of romantic comedies and fairy tales to break. There's always one, tiny, wrapped-up-neatly problem that doesn't leave any long-term damage. Then the resolve—marriage or break up, much like Shakespearean comedy or tragedy, except the death has fabulous, supportive girlfriends and pints of Haagen Dazs.
When I walked into the bar on a cold January night to meet him on our first date, I was relieved to see he looked exactly like his picture from the dating website in which we met. Once we started talking and he said that London Calling was his favorite album and that he wished he were a rock star—that was it. I knew immediately that I'd love him. When I kicked his ass at musical trivia (Prince and other 80's R&B) at Tortilla Flats, he was impressed. We were in each other's most favorite element—music. We talked about Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" (in our defense, it was playing in the background) and Billie Jean King. It was embarrassingly cliché—we talked nonstop and I felt like I'd known him for years. We talked about any and everything for hours even though it was a Sunday night and we both had work the next day. I drove him home (I let him drive my car) across the Brooklyn Bridge. The moon so bright and full, "like a big pizza pie", just like the fictional Moonstruck, appeared on the horizon. A moon so big, cars next to us slowed down to a virtual stop on the bridge just to take photos. I'd watched the movie a couple of days before this night, after a few dates with someone else who had gotten us opera tickets at the Met. This other man lived in Brooklyn Heights, the same neighborhood as the characters in the movie, blocks away from my new, instant musical-toting love. On paper, the opera ticket purchaser was great—college professor, published several times, multiple degrees, available, kind, but he didn't love The Clash nor any form of punk rock or rock unless it had a classical bent. He was my Johnny and my rock-star-wanting-Clash-loving man, my Ronnie. I didn't get my night at the Met, but I got that moon and a first kiss against the car in front of his building in the beauty of Brooklyn. And I got music. Lots of it.
For George Clinton at Beekman Beer Garden, we danced without caution, under a blanket of a New York summer night, caressed by shimmying lights of skyscrapers and the twinkling of the East River, next to the bridge we crossed together on our first date. We laughed at our silly dances and the joyous moves of hippies because they didn't care who saw. It was all fun and letting loose. We made out like we did in the beginning, when we were under that bright moon but now completely in love. We felt new like teenagers, kissing like it was just us. The deliciousness of our high wore off the minute we had to drag our middle aged, tired behinds to a cab, but this night reminded us of how easy it is to be.
For Coachella, we were never more in sync. It was a perfect weekend of us and music. Since it was colder than expected, we stayed warm while waiting for Radiohead to come on by dancing next to each other wrapped in my shawl. I wore it to every outdoor concert because it could double as a blanket. We danced through the mellowness of The Shins and Bon Iver—the repetitive bellow of harmony, “What might’ve been lost”. Once Radiohead graced the stage and opened with “Bloom”, we kicked into gear—danced and sang and waved glow sticks we found on the ground. We looked at each other, in love with the music and the energy, with one another.
For Johnny Lydon at Terminal 5, I wore the cowboy boots I bought the day of our second date. I used the pretense of wanting to go shopping downtown in order to meet him at the Financial Center atrium to steal a kiss. He was embarrassed being so close to his office. I was freezing and excited. We stood near an escalator under the glassed sky and smiled wide. Once we kissed, he hurried back to work and I continued shopping. I bought the MizMooz distressed tan leather ankle cowboy boots that had the punk rock zippers running up the inside. The boots were always too tight and worn only a handful of times. They always looked good, but ended up hurting my already mangled feet after an hour or so, whether I was standing or sitting. I was happy to leave the show early, so I could get out of those shoes and into bed with the man I loved.
Once I moved into his place, I had everything I wanted—love, family, Brooklyn, music. It wasn’t long before I discovered he cheated on me the entire first year or so that we were together. It finally made sense why there was distance. I could no longer pretend that our differences could be overcome. We did try to make it work but much like the truth of our relationship, we never quite fit. He was always in a rush and looking for the next thing. He rarely wanted to stay at an entire show to enjoy the sounds and energy. He mostly wanted to be able to say he did it, so he could cross it off of his list and have a good conversation starter. He couldn't just be. For him, it was all about image and bragging rights. For me, it was about love and living.
We saw Mike Watt at The Mercury Lounge for perhaps one song. I don't even remember what anything looked or sounded like, but I didn't mind. I just wanted to be in his arms in bed while he read a book on his iPad and scratched my head until I passed out. I'm a simple girl at heart.
"Look at this girl who loves me unconditionally. Isn't it cool ?" I imagine this line as a starting point in a conversation he has. He stayed with me for a few songs, but never the whole show. Those boots are tucked in the back of the closet still west of Hudson reminding me that maybe those romantic comedies are right. Maybe there is no gray when it comes to love.
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