Monday, Dec. 07, 2015 @ 9:06 pm
I ride to work this morning in the rain. It's balmy warm - a ten degree morning - and the runoff sloshes satisfyingly around through my fenders. I'm protected from the rain everywhere but my face, a veritable MEC model of reflective jacket, DWR tights, helmet and shoe covers, and neoprene gloves. The rainy days are the best, so I've come to discover. Nobody else rides, so I have the cycling lanes to myself. It's quiet and peaceful and serene, and so goddamn fresh I might as well be laying on top of the Pacific Ocean. I can even smell the salt in the air. Ionized air, clean and humid, and water droplets shedding from my chin.
While I ride, I think about Chris.
He invited me to his fortieth birthday party. In writing this, I just realized how old that is, and how old that makes me, and that I remember being a kid and my dad turning forty and how it seemed so adult and serious. And now years later, here I am, my friends turning forty.
It rained the night of the party, too. This is the nature of winter in Vancouver. I drive across to the North Shore, windshield wipers flopping back and forth, a red parade of tail lights backed up along the major corridors and across the bridge. I drive through a storm-caused lake at a low intersection, and a rooster tail of water sprays out from both sides of the car. I'm laughing, and the visibility is terrible, and the lid rattles on my potluck dish strapped into the passenger seat.
This winter I made a promise to myself to love the rain. I bought gorgeous red rain boots and committed to not letting the rain get me down. It's turned out like a sort of arranged marriage. Me and the rain, we're forced to get to know one another, and in the end I have learned to love and appreciate it. I run fearlessly on rainy nights, water squelching through my socks in my running shoes. Cycling to work, as described above. And I find my attitude changing, to looking forward to spending time out in the rain rather than hibernating. So me and the rain, we're now married, and I'm wondering how sad I will be when the drier weather of spring arrives, because I've come to love and cherish my rainy moments.
I stand at his front door in the rain. Three giant cedars crowd the front yard, the lawn more moss than grass. I can see people inside around a table, and I can hear laughter through the thick wooden door. I knock and wait. There is no doorbell. I try the handle, but it's locked. Anxiety washes over me. I swallow, push my fears down into those red rubber boots and knock again more loudly.
Chris answers the door with a little girl at his feet. She's wearing a gauzy Frozen-esque dress over her clothes, her blonde hair a precocious three-year-old bob, her eyes sharp and mouth tightly pursed. She hangs off of Chris's right side, partially hiding, as he introduces me to her, his niece. I take off my boots and ask her a series of questions about her dress and Frozen, and she eventually skips off, leaving me and Chris to hug hello.
As I pass through the house, I glance to the left to the living room where a wood fire is burning, to the right towards his bedroom where the light is on and his bed is made. Into the kitchen, juggling my salad, drinks, and my gift to him: a bag of homemade granola.
In the kitchen, he introduces me to the room: two highschool friends, his brother, other long-time friends, his niece and nephew, his godson. I realize at this moment that this party is not going to be a rager, that this is an intimate gathering of his inner circle, and somehow he included me in that grouping.
Alright, here we go. Find a drink. Grab a handful of food. Scope out the crowd. Jump into the fray.
I meet all of the women. I ask them questions about themselves. I listen attentively, deferring attention from myself, turning the conversations around back to them to find out who these people are, to see what Chris sees in them, to learn something new. I realize after a moment that I am different from these women. Four are nurses, one a schoolteacher. Traditional female professions. All Catholic. They somehow assume that I too am a nurse, despite being introduced as Chris's former coworker. One asks what I do for work, and her eyes glaze slightly when I rattle off some stuff about consulting engineering and First Nations. My eyes probably similarly glaze when they fall into nursing shop talk. I realize while talking to one woman that she is the nurse who Chris was dating when I left the lab.
I do not get much time with Chris. Leaning on the wall in the kitchen, watching him lay napkins on the table, pull his lasagna from the oven. We share stories of recent travels and adventures. I want to know more more more more, everything about what he's been up to. He never fails to surprise me. A story of camping on the beach alone in Hawaii. Of starting a part time job as a snowshoe guide. Of being in New York just the week before I was there, of standing in the same location at Brooklyn Bridge Park, walking the same streets of Dumbo.
At one point, he walks past me, as I'm headed to the stove for seconds. He bends down to me and apologizes for not being able to talk with me more, gestures around to his friends and family with a shrug. I smile and tell him to not worry about it, that I'm having a wonderful time. And that's the truth.
I go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet, studying these walls that nurtured a pint-sized Chris. I notice the brand of toothpaste. In a moment of sheer craziness, I stuff my face into the towel hanging on the back of the door to breath in the smell. I know it's crazy, but I can't help it. I'm standing there with my face in his towel, the party going on outside the door. Behind a closed door, and I become primal. I realize what I'm doing and stop and straighten my hair in the mirror and leave to rejoin the party.
I leave when others start to make moves to go home. A risque part of me wants to stay to be the last to leave, but the honest part of myself tells me that it's inappropriate. I want to stay so badly, to have him all to myself for even ten minutes. Instead, I sit in my car on the road, hands on the wheel, head back and eyes closed, slightly shaking from the energetic high that courses through my body.
Rain falls on the windshield. I think about him washing his face and drying it on that soft grey towel, of him going to bed alone in his spartan wood paneled bedroom. It doesn't seem right. I want to keep him company. I want his company.
I drive home across the wet city. Wondering what his friends and family know about me. What they've heard about me over the years. Whether this was some sort of test, and if so whether or not I passed it.
But you know what? I did pass the test. His friends actually liked me. I could tell by the way that they said goodbye. I could see being friends with all of them.
Two days later, and this night still resonates firmly in my soul. Chris, the crackling fire, the plates of food consumed with boisterous conversation. His face animated, his body relaxed. My hand brushing against his as he passed me a glass of white wine. I stepped into this other dimension, and it was wonderful.
It was wonderful.