Trying to Stay Present

Parker and I have seen each other three times since holding Freddie’s quaking body in our hands in the middle of the road.

Once, I saw him at his workplace, though it was very brief. I managed to say something like, “I woke up this morning feeling more uplifted,” during which statement he managed to put pieces of masking tape in random places on my shirt. I told him that was flirtatious and distracting and he said he was trying to concentrate on what I was saying. Talk about paradigm.

Then, he left for a week and came straight to the coffeehouse on his way back, before even stopping at his own place to unpack. I felt electric around him, though slightly cautious. But his laugh, his smile, the ease of our conversation and our obvious interest in each other’s lives was reassuring. I didn’t know what we were, and I’ve given up on that idea since. But I do know that it felt good to be around him.

He came back again the next day, Tuesday, and we talked for a long hour after I closed the coffeehouse for the day. Still, no signs of romantic intensity but I remember some advice from a friend. “Sometimes, you’ve just gotta play chess,” by which the friend meant Hang in There, Be Patient, It Takes Time. I felt myself watching him as if from a distance, taking more of him in without such a goal-oriented perspective. His complexities began to reveal themselves and I could feel myself unlatch a little, remembering again how much work a relationship is.

And last night was our officially planned time together – a dinner date in BigCity, NC then on to a liver performance by Keller Williams.

We talked in the car all the way to the restaurant (at least an hour away) and again, I felt myself content and curious about his friendship. I did not feel myself hungry or needing the story of him like I had before. At the restaurant, Parker wants to talk about sex and we are trying to continue our conversation that went so wrong from before, but the tables are so close there is not a molecule of privacy. Parker begins to talk in code by telling me how he feels about “mixing paint” versus just “painting alone” and part of me wants to know about “painting other rooms” but we don’t go there and soon enough we are laughing and no one cares and nothing matters and Parker has his chopsticks on top of his head like antennae and mine are sticking out of my upper lip like overgrown fangs. This could be childish digression, it could be stress relief, it could be exhibiting total comfort with one another, or it could be a mix of all three but either way, I find myself laughing more and more as the evening rolls on and whatever it is, it feels great.

As we walk through the doors to the show, Keller Williams parts the curtains and makes his entrance onto the stage. Immediately the crowd is dancing and Parker and I make our way towards the front of the stage, pocketing ourselves in a small gap in the crowd.

“There are at least seventeen instruments on stage.” I put my arms around Parker’s waist and lean in so that he can hear me over the music. He has been dancing for a while now, too, and I am glad to know we are both comfortable and into the show. “I counted eleven stringed instruments alone! How many can you see? You’re taller than me.”

“I see one instrument,” Parker says, pulling me in. Then he places the tip of his pointer finger on the center of my forehead, indicating mock transmission of some great, spiritual teaching. Keller is a one-man show whose musical and technological genius allows him to build songs one instrument at a time right before your eyes. But what really matters is the simplicity of Parker’s statement. One instrument.

I have such a tendency to over-think issues; to dissect and analyze and name things. It is part of the work of a writer who is trying to constantly understand the world around her. I line things up in my brain in order to use them later as building blocks for stories. This works well on the page, but causes some stresses in the real world.

One instrument.

The night rolls on and Keller plays for three hours, a one-man show, with only a fifteen-minute break halfway through the set. We dance and dance and drink and dance some more. I could be just as happy without Parker there, which is a fine indicator of balance for me. But Parker is there. And we are together, at least in the moment. And for whatever it’s worth, the night goes on and on and by three in the morning we have finally made it back to the mountains, curled beneath blankets in my sleeping loft and begun to find each other again, whittling through the jargon and the code, past all the fretting and doubting, past all the pretend of knowing what this all means anyway, and falling quite simply and slowly into the arms of each other. One instrument.

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