In the cool of Crow’s Coffee House, Genevieve and I solved or at least identified and categorized all the problems of the world. In the parking lot just before she tries to get into the wrong SUV, we briefly touch on that old bogey-man, “love”. We agree that neither of us employs the word “love” in a casual manner towards other humans. We talk about that for a few minutes, standing on the asphalt as cars drift by on 51st street. We mention siblings, and old friends, and romantic partners. We shake our head at the concept of air kisses and people we barely know professing love. Then I embrace her and lisp, “Lub you dawlink” in my best Natasha voice, and get into the Prius. She laughs and tries to unlock the car next to me, and then we snicker about her mistake as she gamely sashays over to her vehicle.
I start my car, still smiling, and pull into traffic. The quiet murmur of NPR carries me home. I park and trudge up the driveway as I’ve done most days since 1993 when I moved here. This time, I stop short of the porch. There’s a stack of books sitting in front of the door bound by a ribbon with a card tucked into them. I think they must be from Brenda since we’ve recently talked about her book collection and our common interests. I lug the tower into the house and slip the note with its vaguely familiar handwriting from under the ribbon, and pop the seal.
A second later, I lower myself into a chair. I feel a look of wonder spread across my face. All my notions of love, and distance, and differences fall away. I see again a ten-year-old girl, slightly pudgy, the sister of my son’s best friend. Her image at thirteen. . . during college. . . bending down to get to eye level with her nieces and nephews. . . . . walking down the aisle. . . her slender body reaching to embrace me, time after time over two decades.
The voices of people whom I rarely see or from whom I almost never have contact of any kind crowd around me. I love you. . . But we are strangers, virtually, practically, actually; what’s love got to do with our relationship? What does that even mean?
Apparently, something. A young woman whom I haven’t seen since last Christmas drove all the way into town from South Overland Park to leave a stack of advance copies because she thought I might enjoy them; and because she loves me. I might have to rethink my position on this love thing.
It’s the nineteenth day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.