Cutting chicken breasts on the glass board I start to cry: I already miss a great friend, and he hasn’t gone any further away than he already was. It is eleven o’clock at night and I am up, making fondue, chocolate in one pot, cheese in the other. For nearly a week, I have had conversations both with and about the friend. Should I tell him how I feel, what the heck did he mean when he said this or that, is there any point in even thinking about a relationship with someone who lives so far away?
Meanwhile, I have two couches and chairs in my living room, draped in black and coral bedspreads. I have an apartment to myself after months of sharing spaces, and although a diehard fan of my mom’s decorative tastes, need to make this space my own. A futon purchased from a soft-spoken woman on the “diverse” west side, assembled largely by her in my living room on a hot Sunday afternoon, should have waited until I had sold the heavyweight hideabed my mom slept on for several months. But no, rash person that I am, I now have both, and list the couch as cheaply as possible on Craigslist to sell it quickly. For a week and a half I turn down offers from folks who needed me to hold it until they had procured a truck to haul it home. No no no, I say, I must sell it now. Then I’m visited by a turtle-doving young couple moving in together, all smiles and fresh faces, who ask me to hold it for them for three weeks.
Yes yes yes, I say sadly, I cannot resist thee in thy fulsome love.
To justify the plethora of furniture, then, I suggest I host Champagne Thursday, not mentioning to anyone that this will be the first gathering of more than two that I have ever hosted. I dust. I buy fruits. I gather fondue recipe guidance from my mother and allrecipes.com. I put away the fur-covered quilt draped over my footstool and dub it “coffee table.”
On Tuesday night I ask my distant friend, too late, perhaps intentionally too late, if he would consider something long distance. On Wednesday I understand conclusively that no, he cannot. I blend marscapone and baking chocolate with ginger brandy in a pot, turning up the country radio station to listen better to Brooks & Dunn’s latest, and I wait for the pain to subside.
I do not want to do again what I did with Marcus, I do not want to sustain myself with phone calls and emails, photos and sexy chats. I want contact, I want touch, I want someone around on both the good days, and the bad, the sexy, and the frumpy, the loving, and the angry. I want the dullness and the surprise and the simple reality of spending time and space at once with my partner. And yet I asked for it again, and cry over raw chicken.
Thursday I feel better, if only because my position is now clear. I am here, in Buffalo, making new friends, hosting Champagne Thursday, looking forward to seeing everyone. Here. Let me just be here, not talking with, not waiting for, not fantasizing about someone somewhere else.
The girls show up with the fondue pots and the champagne. Glasses are chosen and filled, bread toasted, more arrive, jokes made about the support group session we’re about to begin in the circle of couches. Games, more champagne, choice lines spoken that I wish I could remember. Couples go home, a few of us singles lingering to talk about men, cats, fathers, and whether or not to respond to horrid text messages.
I feel at home, here, I am happy, here, with these new people, in Suckallo, laughing and telling the truth and arguing about whether or not the founder of Habitat for Humanity qualifies as a celebrity. And at three in the morning, the last bottle empty, I receive good hugs and close up shop.
This morning I woke up to an apartment full of cheese and chocolate covered dishes, a pile of scraps of paper with misspelled celebrity names written on them, a few text messages, forty-two champagne bottles, a hangover, and the contented knowledge that people had fun here last night.
I know how I got here, but I have no clue why. I know why I stayed, but I have no clue how long those reasons will remain true. And I know what I hope to find here, but I don’t know if I actually will. Meanwhile I pass through the spaces of confusion and heartache, asking myself whether I brought this on myself, or was given it. And finally wondering if maybe the reasons, if ever found, would actually matter. Maybe all that matters is that I am here, and no matter how wonderful distant friends may be, there are wonderful people here, too.
One of them may be wishing, right now, for a girl chosen by her friends as most like a mango.