WAS SWEEPING SNOW from the front steps when I came home with a huge bouquet
of flowers. She was early, and I'd wanted to surprise her with the flowers
already trimmed and in vases, but there wasn't much I could do now. I presented her with the flowers and took the broom from her hand. She went upstairs to take care of the flowers, and I swept the walk.
Out of breath, I came upstairs to the kitchen where K.
was busy with the flowers and vases. "You cleaned the kitchen floor," she
said. Sure -- I'd swept and mopped, cleaned out the cat litter, put away
boxes and bags, and tidied up the empty beer bottles.
"I also did the bathroom floor and scrubbed the bathtub,"
She put her arms around me and gave me a kiss.
"That's sweet. You're so romantic."
Believe it or not, she wasn't being sarcastic. Buying
flowers and mopping floors, cooking dinner and scrubbing the bathtub; it's
all very domestic around here, and clean dishes, a made bed, and an empty
sink are all as welcome as chocolate and candles. Considering our tight
budget, we're as happy with a tidy house and dinner on the table as anyone
else would be with a cruise on the QE2 and a week in Tuscany. Not that
we'd scoff at the latter -- donations are welcome.
A READER E-MAILED ME THIS WEEK to plead that I won't turn
this diary into a soppy procedural of the wedding process.
|"A nesting of monumental
proportions has seized many, including myself. But as weddings
and babies are behind me now I watch with a certain fascination of how
very edgy people slowly metamorphose into someone else again.
Sometimes it is interesting and sometimes it is the stuff of Bridal/Baby
I reassured him that, hopefully, my edge will prevail
and I'll find a way to describe the next few months with some leaven of
humour and irony. I have to admit, though, that I was intrigued, and a
bit stung, by his observation of how "very edgy people slowly metamorphose
into someone else again", and that he has been witness to "a nesting of
MY BEST FRIEND PAUL IS LEAVING the country this weekend
for a new home in London. With his career
in the movies on relatively firm footing, he's finally realized that
it doesn't matter where he lives, inasmuch as he's called to work almost
anywhere. It's about time, as his wife had to interrupt her career in the
movies when she got pregnant, and her
career was over there.
I've known Paul for twenty years, and while I've known
this was coming since before Ilya was born two summers ago, it didn't make
the tart undercurrent of sadness any less biting. A few years ago, when
we were single men, Paul and I were in restaurants practically every other
night, alone or with a mutable group of friends -- mostly from Paul's film
world. Conversation usually took the form of provocation, emotional dares
and rounds of insults. The overwhelming feeling was one of frustration
faintly savoured; we knew there was something else we wanted from our lives,
but couldn't see where it would come from or how we could achieve it. We
were adults, earning adult livings, but somehow lacking the particular
responsibilities of adults. We all lived alone, and except for occasional
relationships, spent most of our time expressing our desire for some kind
of companionship that always seemed just on the border of unattainable.
Of course, it didn't help that our expectations -- of
ourselves and of women -- were either impossibly high or ridiculously contradictory.
In lieu of anything to ground us, we blew all our money in a variety of
restaurants, and compared the pain of our desire for various waitresses.
Our favorite taunt was in the form of "You'll be the first!"
In essence: you'll be the first to fall in love, to get married, to have
kids, to settle down with house, car, mortgage and in-laws. The sting of
this taunt was the implication that, once this process began, one's freedom
to grasp at any opportunity, to live according to the demands of one's
"creativity", would be sharply curtailed, and you would end up one of the
dreary hacks that populated our respective industries, producing bad feature
films, soul-crushing commercials, joyless shoe catalogues and yards of
uninspired prose. It was defensive, half-assed bohemianism of the very
Of course, Paul ended up being the first, much to our
joy, though the sting of the taunt never really made itself felt. His wife
was perfectly lovely, his child sweet, and his life, once he was persuaded
to eschew the slovenly habits of a thirtysomething bachelor, much more
pleasant than before. Of course, the first people to nag him to get in
line with the demands of this new life were his old buddies, all happy
to see someone take the first step into the life we all secretly coveted.
The old gang no longer gets together anymore -- the last
time we were all in the same spot was at Ilya's first birthday party, a
collection of coupled adults quaffing good wine and eating blinis with
caviar while a little girl in white stumbled around the lawn to a chorus
of "awwwws". Almost all of us, it seemed, had coupled in the interim.
I haven't seen much of Paul over the last year and a half,
so helping him pack the last of his possessions into a storage locker,
sitting down for lunch at one of the old haunts, then heading back to the
house they're about to vacate to have a visit with Ilya felt like a day
I'd lived before, having anticipated the imminent move for months. Of course
I'll miss him, and his wife, who has become a good friend. I'll also miss
Ilya, who seemed today, for the first time, to actually recognize me. "Unca
Rick". I know it's corny, but there's something harsh about realizing that
there are limits to how much you can share in your friends' lives.