Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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It seems she was surprised to hear from me. “Marion,” she wrote back a week later, “I kinda liked you when I met you, and then I learned to love you, but now you’re just the skank that fucked my man when I was struggling to make a family.”
The last time I was in London, I kept passing store windows full of tea towels and souvenir mugs with the motto Keep Calm and Carry On. I once read that when the British government dreamed up the slogan at the onset of World War II, the populace was insulted at being given advice that went without saying.
The title “visiting instructor” suited me. Born into a life of hippie nomadism (even living out of a van at one point in my childhood), I’d been roaming since I’d left home at seventeen. An impulsive enrollment in graduate school at the age of thirty had been intended to impose order on my life, but at thirty-five I was as adrift as ever.
Later I showed my evidence. I had text messages of course; everyone always has text messages. The text message is now the lipstick on the collar, and the worst thing is that, much like the lipstick, it only hints at what really is going on.
We started to keep a list — not just a traditional list of birds but a record of two lives coming together. We were strict, allowing on it only birds we saw in tandem. Anything experienced without the other didn’t count anymore. That first bird, Bullock’s oriole — black and white with a bright-orange belly — coincided with our first kiss, under a cloudless sky at Sunol Regional Wilderness Area.
The first time the married man tells you to kneel and wait for him, you are at home in your pajamas. He is at work, and his text arrives over your phone: how fast can you put on a sexy outfit complete with shoes and unlock your door and be kneeling silent in your apartment when i come in.
For most of history it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love and then focus all their sexual, intimate, and altruistic desires on the resulting marriage.
John and I first met in an aisle of a snack shop run by a blind man named Ray. By the time we got to the register, we were deep in conversation. Ray handed me my change and said, “That guy is smitten with you.”
A shoebox full of correspondence, a birthday party magician, summer camp
People come to me because their spouse isn’t making them happy. I don’t think any of our grandparents would have considered that a reason to seek therapy. A passionate relationship in which we ask for novelty and mystery from the same person we look to for security and stability — that is a grand new invention in the history of humankind.