Before and after... I heard a thousand times that a boy, or a man, can't make you happy, that you have to be happy on your own before you can be happy with another person. All I can say is, I wish it were true.
I won't claim I've never in my life done anything I'm ashamed of, but I haven't done anything for a good while. If not everyone would agree with the decisions I've made, that's fine. What other people think has never made a situation right or wrong.
By the time we met up again, she'd be able to hand her reaction to me as a tidy package: a single square of lasagna in a sealed Tupperware container as opposed to a squalid kitchen with tomato sauce splattered on the counters. And I wouldn't have to be there while she got it in order.
It was generally less shocking to Liz that twenty years after high school she was still her essential self, the self she'd grown up as, unencumbered by spouse or child, than that nearly everyone else had changed, moved on, and multiplied. After.
Well, I think that if you sincerely try to imagine what life is like for another person - not in a mocking way, not in a satirical way, but in a sincere, compassionate way - I don't think that's exploitive.
I had no idea, of course, that of all the feelings of my youth that would pass, it was this one, of an abundance of time so great as to routinely be unfillable, that would vanish with the least ceremony.
Ordinarily, of course, I thought it best to remain inconspicuous, but the gesture had a certain irresistable theatricaility, and an inevitablility. Sometimes you can feel the pull of what other people want from you, and you sacrifice yourself, you risk seeming odd or sunsavory, to keep them entertained.
When they left the bar, before parting ways in Port Authority, they stood on the corner of Forty-second Street and Seventh Avenue and continued talking; there were between them always an infinite number of subjects to be addressed and dissected, mulled over and mocked and revised.
I wanted to hold happiness in reserve, like a bottle of champagne. I postponed it because I was afraid, because I overvalued it, and then I didn't want to use it up, because what do you wish for then?
At that time in my life, no conclusion was a bad conclusion. Something ended, and you stopped wishing and worrying. You could consider your mistakes, and you might be embarrassed by them, but the box was sealed, the door was shut, you were no longer immersed in the confusing middle.
I have no idea, of course, that of all the feelings of my youth that would pass, it was this one, of an abundance of time so great as to routinely be unfillable, that would vanish with the least ceremony.