I curve past Walgreens, dodging shoes and what looks like a plastic flower lei lining the center of the road.
Plugging myself into my ipod, I cue up the Iowa Road Trip Summer 09 mix, program the treadmill, and start walking. Muscles alive, I increase the speed and run. Despite too old shoes, broken down and dirty, my feet find that old familiar rhythm. My breath evens out even as it speeds up. "Just like Heaven" begins to play, and I speed up the pace, aiming for something just short of breathless. Exhilarated. I spend a few minutes on the weight machines, challenging my muscles with more reps and weight until the edge of hunger begins to grow into something more vital and necessary.
I drive home amid traffic, winter weary neighbors seeking sunshine and an escape from cabin fever on this, the penultimate day of January, a month that has stretched and lingered longer than any I can remember...
Breakfast, and then journal writing, sudoku, internetting. Talking to my mom. Listening to NPR slip from Classics by Request to Live from the Met. Daydreaming ahead to the Chicago Lyric Opera in March. Imagining G's comments on the Opera music spilling through the house.
After eating a late lunch of roasted veggies and couscous, I plan my love story writing workshop. I jot down a few paragraphs for an article I'm writing. I watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls. I suit up again, start the car, drive to Walgreens to pick up photos I sent in a few hours earlier. The plastic lei is now a series of scattered blossoms, the shoe a lone white, simple lace up sneaker.
In Walgreens I watch, I observe: a teen girl buying a package of Pampers and a 200 minute Tracfone card. A young couple walking in the door together, looking both furtive and hopeful. An older woman walking slowly between the automatic doors, smiling.
I navigate the grocery store as quickly as possible, scooping up ingredients for tonight's dinner (pizza with potato, rosemary, caramelized onions, olives, gruyere) and a few staples for the busy week ahead.
Drive home. Shower. Heat milk, brew coffee. Toast English muffin half, spread with natural peanut butter and dot with chocolate chips. Pull my bed pillows together behind me, wrap up in the blanket best friend S made, sip coffee, nosh snack, and read for Monday's class. Watch the sun begin to set off in the distance. Snap a few photos of a world romanticized through lace curtains.
And then the quiet. The familiar quiet. The quiet of 15+ years of weekend days spent mostly alone. I know this quiet. I've grappled with this quiet. I've alternately balked against and made peace with this quiet.
And I'm glad this quiet is an anomaly.
G's "Up Nort" this weekend, enjoying a frigid festivus celebration with his buddies. The highlight of the weekend: snow golfing on the frozen lake, "sponsored" by Miller Brewing Company.
I was kindly invited to attend, but an especially heavy week ahead (not one but two writing workshops, hosting an all-day long, all-campus/community event, two teleconferences, and one meeting, in addition to my regular class schedule) combined with my aversion to cold weather lead us our separate ways.
Since we generally spend most of the weekend together, I wondered how I would feel with an entire weekend to myself, a throwback to my single girl days (recent enough (eight months yesterday to be precise) that one might think no real adjustment would be necessary). Would I revel in the utter freedom? Would I be crippled by loneliness and longing? I hoped that neither extreme would be true.
When I was single, I made many declarations, whether internally or externally, about not being that girl. You know, that girl who:
a) focuses on her new, romantic relationship and lets other connections slide
b) needs reassurance
c) falls apart over non-relationship stuff in front of boyfriend, becoming a teary mess
d) initiates conversations about the future
e) misses said boyfriend during the week when work keeps them apart
f) misses said boyfriend when they spend a few days apart for holidays or weekends
g) enters conversations with "we" and "us" instead of just "I" or "me"
I'm discovering, though, that it's human and necessary to be that girl, Cosmo advice (which is admittedly crap! anti-feminist, anti-man, anti-happiness, anti-healthy adult relationship crap!) be damned.
Building a relationship, as I'm arguing in my analysis of Jenny Crusie's novel Agnes and the Hitman, is akin to building an elaborate, multi-tiered cake. Foundation and embellishment. Sturdiness and frills. Not everything is attractive or delicious (have you seen the supports they add to the insides of these cakes?) at all times. It takes work. Acts of love. A willingness to get messy. To play around.
To make it up as you go.
It's Saturday night. I'm filling the silence with music, Layer Cake shiraz, and homemade pizza.
I wish G was here to share with me. To fill the silence with his hilarious stories, his laugh. To enjoy the meal, the wine.
But, I'm also glad that he's with friends.
I'm glad that I've found someone who believes, like I do, the relationship math where one + one = three. This weekend, we're living our ones. And there will be more weekends, more times when I'll be the one to leave him here, alone. Work conferences and classes beckon to distant locales...St. Louis, Paris.
What a comfort to come home to that happy three, the space that expands when our ones add up to something more than two.