Wednesday, September 24, 2014

J's grandmother passed away as I was just beginning my visit in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. He scrambled to get a plane ticket home that wasn't outrageously priced after work insisted he take the time off and attend the funeral back here in the states. I'm glad he made it home.

I feel a bit guilty saying I was happy to see him, but it also seems unfair not to express it. Any extra time with him is valuable. It was very difficult to say goodbye to Helen. The weather was immaculate on the day of her funeral. J was one of a small handful that got up to read something for her, and with each reader, a rooster could be heard crowing in the near-distance. I watched the sun brighten itself through the incredible stained glass just in front of the pulpit. I like to think that was a bit of her checking in. Such a wonderful, fascinating woman.

Whenever J and I are both back in Ohio, it feels a little like defaulting to our younger selves. Part of that is being back in the place we grew up, and part of it is logistics--he stays with his parents and I live with my father right now. If driving long country roads to see my love before bedtime doesn't feel young, then I don't know what does. We went back to the only place immediately near us that stays open late to serve alcohol--the Applebees. The one we visit is the one we've always visited, ever since that wonderful kiss in the parking lot. This year they renovated it, for reasons unknown to us. No more random shit on the walls, no more of that Applebees flair. Just salmon paint, bartenders in referee shirts(destined to always remind me of Skateway) and an electric jukebox implanted into the back wall. This jukebox played a key part in our decision to pursue libations elsewhere going forward--one night a woman played a song from the musical Chicago and sang loudly along with it until the music notes faded and, goddamn it, she played it AGAIN and thus sang it again while other bewildered customers tried to concentrate on their riblet baskets. We took to randomly sing-shouting the (potentially misheard) lyrics to one another throughout the rest of his visit.

One of my favorite moments was us driving to Clifton for dinner and drinks. It is so rare, so so rare to be sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle while my love drives. This is one of those simple things that close-living couples might take for granted--the hum of car engine, bass rattle of hip hop, his hand on my leg and the window down. We opted for Mexican that night and went to our preferred place for drinks afterward. Outside, a man played a slow "Billie Jean" on his acoustic guitar--his first ever performance out, according to his lady who joined him on stage for a cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl." I stole glances at J's profile in the dim light, knowing the moment/the night would be over before I was ready, knowing I would lock away little images of his smile in the half light to remember after departure. I wanted our drive back home to last forever.

He left very early this morning. I will see him again in six days, but even that reads like a light year. With each visit and with each month we inch closer to a life we can live together. Maybe this is a touch too personal for this particular sharing space, but he is on my mind and sometimes my heart shoves the rest of me aside and does the typing. I have written about the tough nature of long distance before--it is an experience of many, many lessons. There are days when we get one phone call and the call might be cut short by work or fatigue, or we might miss each other completely due to time difference and schedules. Sometimes talking on the phone is painful simply because nothing can solve the woe but being held. For some things there are no words. This is why I am thankful for his return to lay his grandmother to rest. I needed the ability to sit next to him, to hold his hand through the service. Just as I needed the long car ride to Clifton and that tiny moment in the sort-of-dark, memorizing the outline of his face.

Until next Wednesday my heart will be restless, a clattering against the ribs. Soon, soon, soon.

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