Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019 @ 4:56 pm
The Lucky One
I talk with the cashier at the store near Smith Rock, Russell beside me bagging our groceries.
“Are you here to climb? You two look like climbers.”
I wonder what a climber looks like to this man. What gives us away?
We carry the groceries to the van and begin to organize them in the back. While I am draining the water from the cooler, a man walks up to Russell and hands him a container of salsa.
“I heard that you two were here from out of town. This is my salsa. It’s local. Enjoy! We love having climbers visit us.”
The man walks away. Russell hands me the salsa.
“I like this town.”
We drink with with another couple in Russell’s ocean-view apartment. I like them both; they are warm people, smart and adventurous. I’d like to be friends with them.
“How long have you been dating?” Adriana asks.
“That’s Shannon’s department. I’m bad with things like this,” Russell responds, looking over towards me.
“Three and a half months,” I respond.
“It’s going well,” Russell adds, “at least I think it is.”
I blush and turn inwards. We haven’t actually had a relationship check-in discussion yet. This is how I learn the news that he is happy - through conversation with others. I don’t mind hearing in this way; the moment is charming and sweet, and I appreciate his openness with his friends.
After dinner, his friends are putting on their shoes and saying goodbye.
“It’s really great to see you in your new life, Russell. It’s amazing to see how you have re-imagined yourself and your life. I can’t believe the difference in how things are for you now compared with a couple of years ago,” Adrianna says. “And it’s great to meet you, Shannon.”
I can see how much she cares about him. I wonder how everything was for him before. I wonder how we managed to find each other, both on the tail end of similar trajectories, of having blown our lives apart with the hopes of something better.
We fall back into our Monday to Friday routine. I meet him at the climbing gym after work, and we belay each other up the walls. I attempt a route that’s three grades higher than what I normally attempt. I follow the small blue holds up the wall. They are thin and spare, but my hands are still able to grip them. I move with controlled confidence, shifting my body weight from foot to foot, flagging out left and right, turning my hips into and away from the wall. I stall at a problem spot. I try one thing and can’t reach the next hold. I try it again. Pause and study the wall. I shift everything around and discover that with a different body position I can easily move to the next hold and up the wall. By the time I reach the top, sweat beads across my shoulders and arms and runs down from behind my ears.
“It was neat to watch you solve that problem. Your technique has improved so much in recent weeks,” he says to me when I land on the ground, beaming and out of breath and wiping my brow with the back of my forearm.
After climbing, we go to our own apartments to shower and change and then cycle to meet up at the park for the outdoor movie: Aladdin. We tuck up beside each other under a blanket and eat smoked salmon and cucumbers and cheese in the dark while the opening credits role.
The moment that Aladdin takes Jasmine onto the magic carpet, Russell breaks into song. He sings the Aladdin parts, and I listen to his strong and steady voice. I pick up the Jasmine parts, and we are looking at each other and smiling and singing a duet. Waves crash on the beach beside us. The park is packed with other movie-goers on their blankets. I am so happy in this moment, the ocean air blowing across my face, my lover beside me, surrounded by a thousand warm and relaxed bodies, in my home city.
Later in the darkness of the bedroom, we talk quietly.
“I’m lucky to have met you. I’m glad that you lied about your age. Aladdin lied to Jasmine and it worked for him too,” I say to him.
“I’m the lucky one,” he responds.