Thursday, October 18, 2012

dying young

I don't have much to say lately.

I spent most of my 20s and early 30s in relationships that were characterized by uncertainty. My thoughts, writing, and conversation were often preoccupied with the State of My Relationship, i.e. was my partner too controlling? Too needy? Too cynical? Too materialistic? Too spoiled? Too hairy? Were we incompatible on a chemical level because after X years together, I still didn't like the way he smelled?

Was I trapped? Was I ready? Were we boring? Was I suffocating?

With John, I worry that he's going to die. Though he's in no particular danger of dying anytime soon,  it's frightening to imagine my life without him now, so I do my best to make sure that doesn't happen. I cook him lots of vegetables and leave out the yolks when I make eggs. I scold him when I smell smoke in his beard. I buy him yoga Groupons, and though I have not succeeded in getting him to class yet, I have a good feeling about tonight.

I worry that his cat, Henry, doesn't like me. The orange and white tabby shrinks from my touch. He regards me with suspicion, watching me from a careful distance, his doll eyes flashing from his shelf on our bookcase.  Sometimes, I coax him toward me with chunks of canned tuna. If Henry shows me any kindness, I consider it a small victory.

A few evenings a week, John and I ride our bikes together along the L.A. River. He's much faster than I am, so he usually rides ahead, but he'll always double-back when he spots a creeper lurking. We zip past the cruisers rustling in the bushes, the urban fisherman, the enamored teenagers, the graffiti. We brake for opossums and rats. The ride back through Griffith Park has stretches of complete darkness. I follow the beacon of his red flashing bike light until we reach familiar landmarks: the zoo, the golf course, the house we speculate belongs to Moby.

After a ride last week, we stopped for cocktails at a restaurant called Home.

"You look familiar," the manager said when he passed our stools at the bar. I thought he was going to ask if I played roller derby, but instead he asked: "Are you a teacher at GCC?"

Upon entering the restaurant, I had assumed the man was older than me, but studying him then, I realized he was probably years younger.

"Yes," I said.

The most challenging part of our bike ride is the last five minutes -- the climb to the top of a very steep hill. We zigzag our bikes to the summit, then collapse together in our driveway. Huffing and puffing, we stow our bikes in our two-car garage and trudge up the steps toward the porch light. Once inside, we'll watch TV. Or maybe he'll pick up his laptop, and I'll read a book in bed -- something light about the Rwandan genocide -- and I'll look up from the page, noticing my world simultaneously expanding as it contracts.