I realized I’ve become old when I visit a place and I start to think about replacing former memories.
Tonight, I was at a place where I was once on a first date. It was a tentative first date. We had met for drinks, which turned into dinner, which then led to an after dinner music excursion. We stood there, watching the band, watching the dancers. There were a few of them. Swing dancers, who were quite good. And in period dress. I knew I was a good dancer. I didn’t know if he was. We watched, each too shy to venture to the floor.
Tonight I entered the same bar, different night, different time. I was there among friends. My former neighbor, my Vincent, was performing.
How would I have ever known this would turn out this way? I remember moving into the studio apartment, freshly raw from divorce, excited to meet new people, yet wary of meeting new people. He knocked on my door. “Do you have any sugar?” Seriously? A neighbor was asking me for sugar? He seemed nice enough. And I had sugar. I gave him a cup of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. And our friendship was sealed.
For two years, we chatted as we each made dinner. See, our kitchen windows opened up to face each other. The building was shaped somewhat like an I. Each of our kitchens was positioned to face each other, over an expanse. So he would come home from work; I would come home from work. We would raise our windows, begin cooking our dinners, and chat across the way. This continued until I eventually moved to South Korea.
Surprisingly, we kept in touch. We emailed, and I sent postcards while I was gone. I returned and we met for happy hours and dinners. And the friendship that started over the open windows continued to blossom.
Which leads to tonight. Tonight at the bar where I had a first date that was so promising at the time. And slightly painful to return to in the present.
I thought about the first time I visited the bar. A time of hope, of expectations yet to be fulfilled. I thought about tonight. About friendships I never thought I would sustain. And I was happy with exactly how things have turned out.
As he read his piece, from Doris Lessing, from his own work, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I realized, I’m exactly where I should be. This bar, this place, this time. And happy to be here.