Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Being Revered

Which is rather nice, I think, and something I could get used to...

In June, my husband and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. We are quite proud of that, quite proud that we've held on through thick and thin and continued to find each other worth the effort. Consider the fact that we were together five years before we married, and that makes thousands and thousands of days of putting up with each other's little habits. Thousands of days of laughing together at ridiculous jokes. Thousands and thousands of nights spent sleeping next to each other in the same bed.

In a Yahoo article a few weeks ago, the writer commented that since marriage is so hard, she reveres anyone who is married 20 years or more. "Honey," I exclaimed, "we are REVERED!" And it's been one of our jokes ever since.

Imagine how lovely it was, then, to go out with friends last Friday night. Unusually for us we were child-free, having packed the two lovely girls off to their grandparents for a sleepover and intergenerational bonding time. When our friends wanted to hit a club after dinner, we were in.

Over the din of the music, the six of us sat close together on wobbly stools and worn leather loveseats and tried to talk. P scored us rounds of free drinks and the conversation ebbed and flowed. My friends drifted off to dance, following the thumping trance beat trail down to the courtyard while my friend's new boyfriend shared his boyhood memories with me. Because both he and I love F, we were both making an effort to bond, recognizing our respective importance in her life. It was a poignant evening, all of us getting along with each other so well. F, C and I watched each other as only best friends can, paying attention to each other's interactions, knowing each other's secrets and hopes. Feeling so happy to see our friends looking happy and being cuddly and mushy with truly nice men.

I was delighted to kick back and observe, noting details that I tried to press into my writer's mind for use in later fiction. The wood paneling, the locked ice machine, the exposed soundproofing and the way a cockroach crawled slowly across the wall behind K's head -- the tang of my Cosmopolitian and the golden glow of the tumblers of whiskey they held in their hands -- the lonely hunger on the faces of the twenty-somethings in line for the bathroom -- I soaked it all up.

And through it all, there was S. Whenever I caught his eye, we smiled. He talked at one end of the group, me at the other, but the bond between us was strong. Later, I switched seats, coming to the barstool next to him where I could hold his hand and lay my head on his shoulder, where we made each other laugh with our wry observations.

Later, long after we were ready to have left, my friend F grabbed my hand and pulled me out to dance. The music pounded in the brick courtyard, and I tipped my head back to look up and up from the odd triangle of space we were in, tucked in between ancient three story buildings. At the top, a geometry of night sky showed a few pale stars. I gave myself to the dancing and the lights bouncing around over the crowd. I gave myself to being with my friends and just being in the moment. The blue and green laser display shot colors across the walls, now dots, now lines, and I found myself thinking of neural bursts and the way memories travel across our minds.

I had a friend once who lived in this town, right up the street from this club. I wondered if he had ever come here and felt a pang of regret for him that he probably hadn't. Oh, he would have loved this, I thought. This crush of bodies, the movement beneath the sky, a drift of cigarette smoke hanging over the dancing crowd and the insistent, inescapable beat. Wherever he is, I hope he is able to enjoy something similar.

And then S and the guys were there, moving through the crowd to find us. We fell into easy motion, dance rhythms that go back decades for S and me, back to when we first started dancing as uneasy teenagers. His smiling face is the same one I've looked into for most of the dances in my life, and I had a surreal sense of time falling away, of being back to that ageless sensation of adolescence.

That's when people started to notice us. First, it was looks and smiles. Then they nodded at us. As we kept dancing, we started to garner compliments. "You two look beautiful together." "You look so happy." Apparently, my dress was gorgeous, according to several women who passed by.

By closing time, S and I were hanging in the bar, waiting for our people to regroup. F staggered in, a bit too filled with whisky and joy, in search of water. She came over to me and threw her arms around me. "I have to tell you. You are so beautiful," she said warmly, in her soft drunken French accent.

"Thank you," I replied, steadying her a bit.

"No, really, you are so beautiful. I love you, " she started to cry. "It is just so good to see you looking so happy. You and S look so happy together. You give me hope."

She's had a bit of a rough time with relationships. I rubbed her back gently. "I love you too."

"It's not because I'm drunk," she continued. "Well, I AM drunk, but it's still true."

"I know, F, I know." This friend knows all my problems and hardships. She's been privy to the challenges of my life. And she was telling me that she saw me really, truly happy. Because I was.

My marriage is bringing hope and comfort to my best friends. As I said, it's good to be revered. And I feel we have earned it.

On a side note, the drunken French woman and her equally drunken boyfriend did not operate a motor vehicle. We saw them safely transported home, but not before there were even more proclamations of love and joy all around. It's pretty fun to be the sober ones.

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