I set the table for two; the dining room table, not the kitchen table. I used the linen napkins, not the paper ones and I took out both sets of candlesticks. I turned on the oven and pulled the aluminum foiled baking dish from the fridge; I’d marinated the salmon prematurely, out of excitement and anticipation for tonight. This was a special occasion: our first Shabbat together.
I haven’t felt this sensation in awhile: the flutter. I was with him the last time I felt it. When we broke up, I mourned the loss of that feeling, that feeling of being alive and loved.
“I’m in-between men,” I say in jest, even though that’s been the pattern of my adult life: swinging from one relationship to the next with minimal air time between branches.
However, something is different this time around.
When I let go of his branch, instead of swinging on over to the next, I fell, on purpose. I landed on terrain familiar to my heart, yet foreign to my mind.
How can this be?
I can live a full life without having to grasp for someone to live it with?
You mean I can do all of the things I’ve wanted to do without someone to hold on to?
Yes. I can. I must. I want to. I want to live now, before it’s too late. Because, what if this is how it’s meant? Just me. All of me. Only me, until death parts me from this life.
It’s been almost four months since I saw him last. I still ache for him at the oddest times, like yesterday, at the stoplight, between the grocery store and home. I remembered the time we were waiting to take a left and my heart began fluttering to the beat of the turn signal. He was holding my hand. The light turned green, but I didn’t want to let go to turn the wheel.
Yesterday the signal was slow and lethargic, moaning for the past. I tucked the tears back inside and reminded myself that this triggered nostalgia will soon fade; the turn signal will become white noise, like it was before him. The light turned green and I snapped out of it. It was almost time for Shabbat, and I was going to share it with someone who chose not to swing either, and landed instead, right near me.
“I’m 10 minutes away…”
I took the salmon out of the oven, poured an extra glass of water and opened the door. Her arms were full. I took the bag from her forearm and we embraced: “Our first Shabbat!”
I covered the challah and unpacked the salad bar she’d fit into her tote. I took our plates from the table and we filled them. I love buffets; you can take as little or as much as you want. You can leave out what you don’t like and take what you do, without any obligation to eat what’s on your plate.
We ate; we laughed; we gossiped a little and then apologized to the air for being unfaithful to our mature ways. We both have good hearts, hearts that bleed when we aren’t kind.
I ate too much challah and finished my entire cup of gelato, even though I was already full. When you’re celebrating, your stomach makes extra room for the joy. I haven’t eaten like that in a long time.
We lit the candles and sat on the couch appreciating the light. We had a discussion about whether it’s appropriate to have a statue of Buddha, since it is “against our religion.”
We talked about our daughters and how we hope they don’t inherit our issues. We strategized about where to have their Bat Mitzvahs. She offered to help me make a spreadsheet to keep track of the costs. That’s the stuff I thought I could only do with a partner; I was wrong.
We yawned, and kept chatting anyway. The light in the house was buttery and romantic, yet neither of us have interest in romance with anyone right now. Besides, I’m still in love. We’re enjoying the cocoon of a blossoming friendship and sharing the rituals our parents passed to us that we are passing on to our children.
The time came, when we could no longer ignore our heavy eyelids; we said goodbye.
I closed the door and looked around; the house felt alive. The candles were still burning. I stood at the counter, appreciating the soiled linen napkins bunched next to the bowls coated in chocolate, and my heart fluttered for the first time since that day at the light with him.