Thank you for the lift the other night. My car was in the shop and I no longer remember how to call a cab or estimate its arrival time, but during that client meeting, I was reminded of the way seconds can roll slowly across a room suffused with two men who register each other’s bodies before all other matter and as I studied the new greys sprouting near your temples—a half dozen more strands than when I last saw you in the office two years ago, before the world shut down, when we were both rushing through life like Quicksilver, your favorite superhero because, you once told me, even his metabolism is fast—I flashed back to a time when we were chasing our bodies wherever the calendar took them and now your voice is softer, your mouth opens wider when you laugh and your eyes linger on my face longer than they used to when I joke about how easily I cry now that I’m fifty, even though I still wear cufflinks shaped like skulls and crossbones.
When we pulled into the driveway, I noticed my wife was waiting up for me. How funny, she never does that, she mostly stares out the kitchen window until someone’s footsteps rattle her awake, so I approach all rooms deliberately, slowly, so as not to startle her but also because from a distance her profile is stunning, her black hair catches light exactly the way it did twenty years ago before either of us could have predicted how the years would alternately unfurl before us and then choke us as in almost kill us the way our daughter almost did to herself half a decade ago, before my wife walked in to see her lying in that bathtub and I will never forget the way my wife opened the bathroom door and did not scream, did not even gasp but instead whispered I love you sweet girl over and over in the tender way a new mother might sing her baby to sleep.
Months later I shared this with you over too many beers: the black hair, the bathtub, the tender mother and then the way I closed the door to everything, became a walking shadow, while my wife prepared dinner each night with linen napkins and golden napkin rings and as I described each detail, you listened with your head tilted slightly to the right, your almost imperceptible nods and when I was finished you sat in silence with me, rested your hand on my shoulder, then whispered to the bartender another round please.
What you will never know is how often I replay that night at the bar, how I re-invent the storyline so that it ends with you and me driving wildly somewhere, parking, laughing at our indiscretion, your hands everywhere, your silence, your noise, our giddiness afterwards.
What you will never know is that after imagining all other endings to that night, I always reverse course. I always go back home. There is no other ending where my wife is safe from her grief. I open the front door of our small dark home, walk up the stairs to our bedroom, sit on the floor in my three-piece suit and watch her sleep. When she finally wakes, the morning light is already creeping through the shades to illuminate her long dark hair. She whispers good morning. What really happened that night is where I always return.
So thank you again for the ride. You really didn’t have to drive me home but my gratitude for that morsel of time spent in your company again carried me through the remainder of another week and when I see you next I will have worked day and night to all but forget that I anointed you my savior for that twenty minutes when we were each alone, together, inside your little blue car, careening down the highway towards home listening to nothing and everything at once, hearing our whole lives opening to one another even in the periodic silences marking our casual banter, feeling the wind caress our fresh faces and waiting, hoping, for another twenty minutes in another two years.