living underground in the real world

March 20, 1997

I write this post every year. Every year a detail gets sharper, another one fades away. Memoirs are like that.
Last year’s post  was better than this year’s. More poetic.

Here’s this year’s anyway.

Fifteen years ago today, I knew everything I know today. In one way, at least.

You did, too. I know it.

The story we tell is that we met in a class, Confucius to Zen. You copied off my notes, were intrigued by my blue, then pink, then red hair. That’s the story, too. But the story story is that our ragtag group of friends, two groups of friends with some overlap, like there is when you’re 19, went to the annual screening of a porno, one of those stupid campus traditions. You and I, independently, decided at the door we’d rather not.

And so we saw each other. We’d been making circles for weeks, going out of our way to catch glimpses of each other, and now we made a straight line. It was so cold. We walked around outside for hours. I remember telling you how obsessed I was with JD Salinger’s Glass family. You hadn’t read the books, then, but that wasn’t a deal breaker for me, it just meant I could ramble on and on about Franny and Zooey and Seymour and all the rest. You listened. And that set up the pattern, right there, that first night. Ramble ramble ramble—–>patient listening.

It was a Thursday, we had class in the morning, but we walked and talked and then we went to my room and we’ve never been apart since.

Simple.

We joked about it even that very first week: how we couldn’t wait until time passed and everyone could see what we saw. The strange thing is, what did we see, then? We’ve become so much more alike since. When I think of us then, all we really had in common was a sensibility. That was more than enough. A shared sensibility will take you everywhere, it turns out. I guess you could say we got married that day, March 20, 1997. As married as we’ll ever need to get, in that I took your heart and you took mine and everything since has just been details.

Rings made me feel stifled and aren’t your style. We didn’t have religions or overbearing families, and we never wanted religion or a family of our own, so we had then what we have now: ourselves, and our words.

All I’ve ever wanted, really, and more than I ever thought I’d get.

And later, way later, when I got to feeling really stifled—we were 19!—we talked about it, made guidelines, and it was OK. We still talk about how to make it work, all the time. I always figured I’d be a grand loner, so we’ve made big giant spaces for me to be alone when I have to be. We figure it out as we go, as you do.

We’ve had long conversations about what to call us to others, but they were practical on my part and idle talk on yours, because you’ve always only ever introduced me one way: “This is Lagusta.” Once I asked you why, and you said, “Let them think what they want, who cares? You’re my Lagusta.”

When we’d been together six months, I gave you a present: a box of candy, with tiny stickers on each piece with a date and an activity: “Lilac Festival.” “Thai Food.” “Pregnancy Scare.” We started celebrating ourselves early—big giant birthday celebrations, sweet anniversary dinners—and we’ve never stopped. When you don’t celebrate readymade holidays, you’ve got to make the most of what you decide is important. Like today.

Fifteen years ago I didn’t yet have words to talk about where I’d come from, and I didn’t want those words. I wanted you, and a new life. But the facts were still the facts. My mother had written bad checks with my checking account and ruined my credit, so when we met I had a secret: an envelope of paychecks from my coffeehouse job, with no way to cash them. That first week, I screwed up my courage and asked if I could sign a few checks over to you to cash. You didn’t ask any questions, you just signed your name with that long line and squiggle at the front, and I felt a relief I’d never felt before fill my entire body: he isn’t going to make me talk about it. Amazing. Seven years later we went to the bank and added my name to that account, and that’s the same account we now pay our three joint mortgages from today. Things get better, because we made them better, you and me. Fifteen years.

Fifteen years of working through everything. Of lavish birthday celebrations that border on Versailles-level opulence, of teaching me to drive, teaching me math, teaching me how many decibels the subway screech is and the Radiohead show is and the tempering machine makes.

Fifteen years of cat puke and cat scratches, of ferries when I puked seven times and flights when you had to hand bags of puke to flight attendants and request fresh bags. Of meltdowns and manic highs, of ludicrous schemes that actually came true—thanks to you.

Of ridiculous poverty and living beyond our means, of credit cards and lines of credit, and of cutting up credit cards and paying off lines of credit.

Fifteen years of zipping me up and “you’re wearing that?” and sitting in a stifling airless car because I just did my hair and no wind can touch it, and of not laughing at me when I need to buy a new pair of shoes on the spot because I can’t walk in the ones I’ve worn for a day of walking around the city.

Of making a place for me at Front of House and telling me when I could safely steal whiskey from the band dressing room (“they’re all on stage—go!”).

Fifteen years of indulging me, of bringing me back down to earth, of knowing the look in my eyes that says “hold my arms because I’m going to snap in one second and break every piece of glass in this house.”

Of whining and screaming and way too much Bikini Kill at way too many decibels.

Of the golden rule: never telling me I’ve made something delicious when it’s not.

Of dinners that cost more than a nice used car and dinners we’ve foraged for in the backyard.

Of warming my hands up and letting me touch my icy feet to your warm body.

Fifteen years of hikes where I’ve whined the whole way and hikes where I’ve puked and hikes where I made you eat questionably foraged berries.

Through wisdom teeth and root canals and broken feet on tour in Australia when you had to push me in a wheelchair through endless airports, through sun poisoning and hangovers and, oh god, the Master Cleanse.

Fifteen years of being the worst Jews in the world, together.

Fifteen years of me yelling at that guy next to us at dinner and at that guy on the street, and that guy in that car, and that lady in that movie theater, and those million other strangers I’ve had fights with.

Of endless teary airport kisses.

Of that month in Europe a decade ago when I couldn’t get the dust of dead bodies out of my hair, and even though it gave you terrible backaches you let me sleep in your bunk on the tour bus because I couldn’t do anything but sleep as close to you as possible and hope I could dream your non-terrified dreams.

Of waking up on beaches with no one else visible for miles, and walking in each other’s footprints, yours with that little drag, mine too tip toey.

Fifteen years of my Chelsea boy, my curly head, the most perfect thing this perfectionist could ever hope for:

My Jacob Jon Minor Feinberg-Pyne.

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