Eight years ago I lived in many winter nights that felt like this: quiet, full of pasta and easy sauces, slippers, the hum of heat through the vents, not somber but alone. I had a little apartment in a small town I'd moved to because it had given me my first real job. I knew so few people, was familiar only with the handful of roads I traveled for work or food or home home. I was thankful, so thankful, that I'd been given the chance to do what I loved, but it was strange, being an adult, more serious than I'd anticipated, and I spent long minutes--sometimes hours--curled up in blankets, my curtains open, gazing out at the shadowed hill that rose up to meet the western sky.
That is, until a phone call.
George lived in California. He'd moved there for adventure, for music, and his winter nights sounded like this: colorful, full of fish tacos and frozen yogurt, running shoes, the jostle of multi-lingual neighbors laughing out his window, far away and fast. He lived in Venice, one block from the ocean. He biked to work along the boardwalk where he waited tables with new friends, went out after work to shoot pool, sometimes took air-mattresses to the surf under starlight. Everyone he knew was from some place else. And he was thankful, fully thankful, for all the things he was learning about himself. But it was strange, he said, living on your own far from home home, more tiring than he anticipated, and he spent long minutes--some times hours--plucking out melodies on his guitar, thinking back toward the Midwest.
Until a phone call. Until a voice made a night more warm, more easy, simply because of love.
I am thinking about this now because I woke today to a thin coat of snow, and the evening's darkness comes on so early, and I am alone tonight, at least for another few hours, and I am struck, so tenderly, by how young I was at twenty-two, how open were the windows and doors that led all directions, and how right I was in choosing the path that led me here. It isn't that I lack regrets. It's that somehow, from this place, they don't matter.
We talked on the phone for the rest of that year. And then he returned home home. And then we married. And there are still nights like this one when we are in our own worlds, parted by a black sky and cold air and other commitments. Where I make pasta with easy sauces, and I'm sure if he could, he'd choose fish tacos instead. Where we stare out of separate windows and think thoughts that we will not share, because we're separate people, our own.
Until the lock turns, until the door opens. Until he is home home, and I am home home. Until he puts his backpack down and I help him with his coat and right before we kiss we look around us at this life we've created--simple, a few walls, music and books, lighted lamps, a child--and find ourselves anywhere and everywhere together.