It was Lent. It was Friday. I wanted the pasta with sausage sauce. I ordered the grilled salmon. Not because I’m a faithful Catholic, but because B, my husband and dinner companion, is observant and actively practicing. I also decided my dinner didn’t need to be crispy and fried like me.
The spring semester and the first year of my MFA program are ending. I’m sleep deprived and anxious as I complete coursework and figure out what to do this summer, next academic year, and after I graduate in May 2012. I’m having Rutgers separation anxiety just as I’m finding my groove in this grad school gig. Big unknowns loom, just like last year at this time when I wondered if an MFA was wise and worthwhile, if promised jobs would come through, if in vitro treatment would be successful.
I’m damn scared as I carry the weight of what I know and what I don’t, and the knowledge that standing still is not an option. Time and life continue, whether or not I’m ready or brave. Heaviest of all I’ve learned is that I can’t have children. That reality and what it means for the rest of my life, and our life together, continues to sink. I don’t know that it will ever settle because I feel bottomless inside.
It was just me and B this particular Friday night, after friends canceled dining with us. B was frayed, too: he was getting over a cold and preparing for yet another trial in a lately endless schedule. Despite my sausage disappointment, the evening started well as we caught up on the day and week. We were both tired, though, and distracted at points. B didn’t catch something I said and I didn’t feel like going through the effort of making my point again, so we sat silently for a bit. I didn’t finish my beer because I know when I’m tired and irritated, I either fall right asleep or get really irritating before I fall right asleep.
We left the restaurant just before 7:30 pm to catch a music performance at the old Brennan Court House. We held hands as we crossed Newark Avenue and gave our customary squeeze before disengaging. It means, “I’m going to let go now,” and it’s one of many signs developed silently over 16 years together.
I was disappointed no one asked for ID when I paid for two student tickets. I’d run out of cash so I asked B if he’d treat his wife to a coffee and cookie from the concession table. He answered with his playful, “Mmm, maybe.”
Small tables with tea lights were fortressed by heavy, dark curtains under the rotunda of the old court house. There was enough light to see the angels painted on the rotunda ceiling. A lot of the tables went unfilled once Guggenheim Grotto, the band, started playing. Too bad because they were great: two Irish guys, one on keyboard and one on guitar. B put his arm around the back of my chair. I moved my chair right up to his and smiled coyly, as if it was the first time we sat so close. I leaned into his side and in that darkness, listening to live music, I did feel a tingle of newness.
I remembered the last time I’d been in the Brennan Court House. B and I had just started dating at the time of his swearing into the New Jersey Bar Association, a ceremony held in that old court house. After the ceremony, we drove in his behemoth Buick to buy beer for the celebration party at his apartment. We held hands the entire time in the car, and I sat by his side the whole night, likely leaning right into him.
There was nothing but unknowns before us that night. I was scared then, too, but also felt excitement and promise. I realized on Friday night that possibility can always be available to us. The band helped a lot, too: Guggenheim Grotto’s music has that expectant yearning I love. It reminds me of innocence, that I can hope when I yearn, not be crippled by fear of disappointment.
B and I walked out of the court house holding hands, like we did that December night 16 years ago. The only certainties I have are that the future is a complete unknown and that as long as we have each other, we’ll hold hands through it all.