|Cathedral of junk, Austin, TX|
Already, happiness is slipping through my fingers like sand.
And I don't know what to do to stop it from turning its back on me again, this time for reasons so petty they defy understanding.
Last week, an Islandish newspaper asked me what it was like to be a foreigner on the island and requested I write an extended op-ed on a topic I had only previously pawed at via a semi-regular column elsewhere. So I laid my soul bare on the page, complete with assorted shortcomings, seismic failures and small victories. The result was a sturdy block of text that is a far cry from the lyrical tributes to the island that the newspaper is fond of publishing, something I also openly take them to task about while making no apologies for my less-than-positive experiences there.
Although it is factual rather than judgmental, it also contains a healthy dose of my very own handmade hope, that thing that sticks to my words like glue no matter how crushed I might feel. Relieved to finally be able to put the last three years of my life to rest with a modicum of dignity, I email the offending piece, fully expecting it to be rejected on account of its uncompromising – and unforgiving – tone. Facts, I tell the editor, facts rather than fiction.
On Saturday, Someone and I call the airline to change my return date to mid-March while I put together new ideas, plan a short trip to Canada for a feature and wait for an assignment in MA to happen, or not as the case may be. In short, while we both embrace normality and togetherness.
The next day, Someone and I plus our oversize happiness pile into the car and head South to go visit Someone's mom. I am so nervous I doubt my stomach will hold out but it miraculously does and I even manage to make pleasant, polite and semi-intelligent conversation. Someone's mom is welcoming and kind, she teaches me how to prepare natto and tells me of her many trips to Europe. After lunch, she fetches the photo albums from the basement and shows me pictures of Someone from babyhood to graduation, happy snaps of a happy little boy now crammed into a 41 year-old body, still wearing the same smile, the same playful look.
I am taken aback as I didn't expect Someone's mom to share such intimate and precious memories with me right there and then. We have just met and already she is making me feel like I belong. We leave bearing a jumbo box of seaweed and leftovers neatly packed into little plastic containers. In fact, we are so overwhelmed by then that we forget some of the food at the house and Someone's mom calls to let us know. We go back after a coffee shop emergency stop – my stomach did its best, but even its best would not have lasted all the way back to Seattle. Someone's mom moved me more than I was able to demonstrate and I come home with a new person to love, radiating happiness and acceptance.
It surprised me a little that she didn't ask me many questions but I know that her son has already filled her in, complete with details on how we met, when and where. As our story is rather unusual, I had expected some confusion but saw no trace of it whatsoever.
Reviewing the afternoon, we both feel that the visit has gone well but we're still not too sure what to make of it, Someone's mom being quite a reserved, rather self-contained kind of person. On the one hand, it has been many years since Someone last introduced a girlfriend to her and, on the other, because I have such a troubled relationship with my own genitor, I am immeasurably grateful we are able to share our happiness with at least one family member who appears to be normality incarnate.
Monday goes by as blissfully as every single day has done since Someone and I have been together. On Tuesday, I receive an unexpected email and Someone has an odd look in his eyes when he comes home in the evening. There is sadness in his smile and an aura of diffuse pain about him that indicates he is hurt so I ask him about it.
When he speaks – taking infinite care to choose the most neutral words available in the English language – I feel the full force of his pain crashing down on me and can do little more than hold his hand and burst into tears. His mother called before he came home and they talked for one hour and a half. From the few details he manages to share with me, I gather that I am an aberration for being 36, still unmarried – worse even, divorced – flying across one entire ocean and a whole continent to meet someone I only previously knew through words then "shacking up" with him without prior courtship. Apparently, I come across as a nice girl but not the kind of person Someone should get serious with. But by all means, he should have fun while he can.
Flattery aside, in her eyes, this makes me nothing more than a good time girl who is running out of options and not getting any younger. Disposable, irrelevant, worthless.
Meanwhile, the editor says my piece has been chosen to feature in the newspaper's commemorative anniversary edition that comes out late March, along with contributions from actual Islandish names.
As my heart hemorrhages love and infinite tenderness for the man who tries so hard to shield me from harm, the kind of certainty that only comes along once in a lifetime feels like a punch in the throat so I hang on to Someone's elderly cat for dear life and the rest of the week happens in a muted blur. I am helpless, powerless and something tells me we're in for more unpleasantness while a voice at the back of my mind whispers that now is no time to listen to the past – this love will be what we make it.
And yet happiness feels like it's slipping through my fingers like sand, and it chafes.