On Saturday, my husband spontaneously decides to take our three children out for lunch and some video games en route to our son's late afternoon soccer game. He doesn't ask me if I want to come along; he knows I'd like to get some writing done, plus game arcades are not really my style.
"We'll be home at six," he says.
I'm confused by this sudden, unexpected gift of time. How to savor it? The house is a mess, the laundry baskets overflowing. I decide to escape to the coffee shop.
A chilly rain is falling, the kind of day that you want to be holding a warm mug in your hands. The coffee shop is packed, and I grab the last seat in the place. With my laptop and a steaming double cappuccino, I'm ready to write...except that the two young women at the next table are talking really loudly, with an intensity that's hard to ignore. I scoot my table a little to try to get away, both for their privacy and mine, but in the crowded shop, there's really no place to go.
The women are in their late twenties, I think. I try not to listen to their conversation, but like I said, they are so loud and animated, it's impossible not to overhear. The Blonde is telling The Brunette a long, complicated story involving a man, a police report, an angry phone call from the man's sister, and a Facebook fight. The Blonde seems to relish the rapt attention of her friend. Her eyes flash with bitter emotion as she talks.
In my twenties, I was often the girl with the story involving, say, a man in a bar, his ex-girlfriend, a long letter, and a trip to Bangkok.
My life is just not dramatic like that anymore.
By the time I'm ready to leave the coffee shop, the rain is coming down hard. As I dash down the street to my car, I am remembering another rainy day twelve years ago.
I'd spent a quiet afternoon dodging raindrops on the streets of Cambridge with a man I barely knew. We were taking my car back to New Hampshire. I wasn't looking forward to the long trip.
"Why don't I drive us back?" he offered.
"Would you mind? I don't really feel like it."
I handed him the keys. "You're going to have to get used to having someone around to help you," he said. "You don't have to do it all."
A lifetime later, I am still getting used to it.