if everything goes according to my plan

I wake ravenous this morning, which is not, typically, a good sign. Too much hunger too early in the day suggests a day of disappointments.

Yesterday, a day of indulgences – late brunch with L. at a restaurant we both love. There is a wait, of course, and we squeeze into a bench by the bar and sip coffees. It’s been a while since we’ve spent time together. She’s walked the three miles from her house and she tells me, “I was on the phone the whole time – fighting with my mother.”

“What are you fighting about?” I ask.

“Oh, everything. What are we not fighting about? My parents – they don’t live in reality,” she says, as she unwinds her scarf from around her neck, stuffs it in her purse. “They don’t follow any sort of logic. They are just completely illogical.”

We laugh. She goes on to explain the house she wants to buy, that they are buying with her, and the negotiations of these shared financial decisions. There are renovations to be done. Walls to knock down. A roof – literally – to be raised.

“The good news is,” she gushes, “ that the contractor is unbelievably hot, and if everything goes according to my plan, he’ll marry me and we’ll have babies together and spend our lives buying houses to renovate.”

I spend the early morning in the garden, raking out last year’s dead leaves and weeds. This early in the season, I am ruthless – pruning back the rose bushes, pulling out big clumps of the irises that will take over the beds by mid-June, thinning the hydrangea. I work for hours, fill dozens of bags with garden debris. Back inside, I observe the familiar blisters that have appeared on my fingers and my forearms now bear the tell-tale signs of my carelessness with the beach roses. I go back outside, survey the yard again. There is visible evidence of my efforts, but there is still so much to be done. I feel suddenly and overwhelmingly weary.

When L. and I are finally seated, we order big dishes and talk loudly. It is hard to hear each other over the din. She’s come back from a trip to New York to visit her man for his birthday. They have a drink together before dinner, but he has plans for dinner with his soon-to-be-ex-wife.

“He had dinner with her for his birthday?” I ask. “But they’re done, right? I mean, it’s over?”

“Oh, yes,” she says. “I think she just felt badly than he didn’t have any other plans. I mean, I don’t think he really understood that I was there to see him. I don’t think he really got that.”

I nod, bite the inside of my cheek hard.

“Anyway, tell me about your trip,” she says, as she flags over the waitress for more coffee. “I haven’t seen you since San Francisco.”

In the afternoon, I am walking through campus, and I notice a man who seems familiar, but it takes me a while to remember how I know him. Finally, it comes to me: A librarian! From my days spent in the carrels on the fourth floor of the university library. His silent figure a frequent presence moving through the aisles. Or downstairs at the reference desk. Or hovering behind circulation. It’s been at least twenty years now and he is showing his age. His hair is pale, thin, gray. It is hard to watch him as he makes his way up the hill. He walks hunched over, slowly, his legs bowed.

Seeing this man, watching him take his uncomfortable steps uphill, this man whose name – if I ever knew, I have long since forgotten – makes me swallow hard, repeatedly, involuntarily. It is not, after all, the people with whom I share my daily life – my family, my friends – who can show me the passage of time. We are aging together, nearly invisibly to each other. It is this librarian, who in my memory has been static, symbolic; it is he who reminds me that the months and years pile up relentlessly on us all, whether or not we are paying close attention.

At night, we go to a dinner party and we spend the early part of the evening introducing ourselves to people we’ve never met, despite all our years of living in this tiny city. When dinner is served, though, we tuck ourselves into a corner, M. and me., and quietly acknowledge the pleasure of being alone together for a few minutes – even as the rest of the party swirls and chatters around us. We lean in close to each other, creating, with our bodies, a little private floating island. “That dress is amazing,” he says. “You look so beautiful,” he says. Before I can respond, a man approaches us, says to M., “I think we’ve met – you look so familiar,” and with that, we rejoin the party, leave the island behind – to revisit, perhaps at another time. 

Today is the anniversary of the date of my adoption. We called it that – an “anniversary” – in my family and when I was a child, I remember the date being commemorated every year with a cake and a small gift. At some point, the celebrations stopped, but I don’t remember when or why. It is not a tradition that I carried into adulthood, and I don’t know that anyone – except perhaps my aunt – notes the date. This year, it seems important to me to mark it, although I don’t know why or how. Perhaps it is enough to acknowledge it here.