Friday, February 3, 2012

a banished ghost

The weekend before last, Kathy and I took a short trip to San Francisco.  She had to go for a work function (the social and work lines are often so blurry -- it was basically a mandatory party).  We had a trip planned for February while the kids were on break with their father, but had to cancel it for a variety of reasons, so we decided to take the opportunity and a few thousand frequent flier miles, and I tagged along. 

When we arrived, we went to my favorite San Francisco restaurant (Taqueria Cancun, in the Mission -- I advise you to get some kind of Super Burrito, if you are ever there, and split it with someone), checked in at our hotel, went shopping at Gumps, without the kids, found me some boots that could withstand rain (duh, this is why you don't wear Uggs in California) and met up with our friend for drinks.  Which was kind of weird, since she was 8 months pregnant, but whatever, we were on vacation and technically ginger ale is a drink.  It was, actually, kind of a perfect day.  But then, the night happened.

Kathy and I have this thing that we do, which we call "banishing ghosts."  If we have a particularly bad memory someplace -- the kind of memory that gives you a cold feeling in the pit of your stomach each time you walk by -- we go back, and try to create some good memories to outweigh the bad one.  Sometimes, this entails re-creating the event which caused the bad feeling, but with a different outcome.  Sometimes, it's going back and just having an entirely different experience all together.  So I was not all that surprised when Kathy asked me if I wanted to go to the hotel bar of the SoMa Courtyard by Marriott.

The SoMa Courtyard by Marriott hotel bar is the first place that I ever told Kathy I loved her.  We had stopped there for a drink, kind of randomly, when I blurted it out.  Kathy's response was this:  "                       ".  That's right.  She said nothing.  For quite some time.  So I did what any person with a reasonable amount of pride would do in that situation.  I owned up to how I felt whether it was reciprocated or not immediately back-pedaled.  I'm not sure what I said, exactly, but I think it was some combination of "you know, I mean, I love you as a friend" and "not really all that much; certainly not more than I love other people."  To which Kathy responded, "I have to go."  I later found out that on the way home, she called her friend and confessed that she, in fact, loved me too, but that she had not been ready to tell me that.

So on the list of bad memories, this one is somewhere near the top.  Which is why she asked me if I wanted to go for a drink in the hotel bar of the SoMa Courtyard by Marriott before dinner, to banish this particular ghost.  I would say I loved her, and she would say it back.  And I would not tell her I don't love her as much as I love some other people.  We would chat and laugh, and then, the next time we drove by the Courtyard by Marriott, we would say, "Hey, remember that time we were in town for the weekend and we stopped in there for a drink before dinner?" rather than trying to simultaneously avoid looking at both it and each other.

Whispers Bar & Grill
(the hotel bar of the SoMa Courtyard by Marriott -- which
I just learned is creepily called "Whispers."  I don't know
why that strikes me as creepy, but it does.)

When we left our hotel to head out for the night, it was pouring rain.  It was raining in that way that would be a thunderstorm anywhere else, but weirdly isn't in San Francisco, because they do not seem to have thunderstorms there.  We had dressed nicely for dinner, and when we arrived our shoes were completely saturated and our hair was sort of stringy-looking and wet.  We went to the bathroom and cleaned ourselves up as best we could, then headed down to the hotel bar.  We kicked off our shoes so they could dry out a little, ordered a couple of pints, and chatted for a while, before I looked soulfully into her eyes and said, "I love you."  She responded, "I love you too," and I said, "Okay great, let's go."  Ghost -- banished.

She hesitated, and asked if we could get another drink.  Actually, she asked if I would go to the bathroom again with her, but I told her no, that was weird, and then she asked if we could get another drink.  I was reluctant to do this, since I had already had kind of a lot of wine with the pregnant friend, and a pint, and we would probably get wine at dinner, but I thought, what the hell -- and we ordered our second pint.  When those pints were sitting in front of us, she looked soulfully into my eyes, and said, "I have something to tell you.  I'm divorced.  It's final.  I am free."

I started crying, because that moment, slouching on a bar stool in a cheesy hotel bar, with my soaking wet stocking feet dangling a foot above my discarded shoes and my stringy wet hair in my eyes, is when I realized that the day had not actually been perfect, before.  It was perfect now.