Rain drizzles outside — and with it comes slight pandemonium. But all of that just fades behind a cotton curtain, veiling the iron-framed windows looking out onto Santa Monica Boulevard from the former hardware shop.
Conversations hum around us like flies over jam, and the lights dim just enough to create an air of intrigue as wine is generously poured into deep, clear glasses — creating the illusion of darkness pouring into darkness.
And there, in front of me, is the man I’m going to marry in a few months — shoving his hair here and there in a frustrating attempt to gain control, and resting a day’s work on the leather booth back. We both sip our melon cocktails, and I watch the cucumber sliver knock gently against my tumbler’s side.
“You know, just think of where we were a year ago.” My own voice almost startles me, even among the low din of the surrounding chatter.
“I know. It’s been a journey.”
Literally. A year ago, I was busying myself with arranging a cupcake tower for Andy, mere hours after I decided to quit my job. On his birthday. (Even in retrospect, the selfishness of it all still sort of stings.)
But before my mind steeps in that emotionally tumultuous memory, our waiter tempts us with delicious treats, and I consider his face momentarily, thinking of how much he resembles Callum Bloom from Dead Like Me.
Soon enough, small plates — with entree names that’re head-smashingly annoying — pass under our noses and I savor the complex, mouth-watering tastes, all the while thinking back to my post-employment budgeting attempts for scrimping and scraping every bit of money we had just to get out here. How I’d methodically taken stock of what we had in our cupboards before cobbling together random dinners of grits and pasta and lentils, and slowly downsizing the deer-and-a-half in our freezer.
Satisfyingly full, we walk out and are immediately bombarded by a line of art-goers impatiently waiting outside a neighboring storefront. But we dart past, across the road, and into the misty darkness — toward the base of the Hollywood Hills, speckled with lighted clusters; up the block to the low-slung mid-century building with the courtyard in the city we never thought we’d live in; to be greeted by a little furry blob we never knew would be ours.
Where we unwind. With cake, of course.
We may just be beginning this new chapter — after a protracted prologue — but the pages ahead aren’t so much blank as they are dotted with aspirations and benchmarks, bubbling to the pages’ surfaces like developed invisible ink.
And while things will always be exhausting and mind-bending to various degrees, we’re still in the game — playing on: two chess pieces unwilling to be checked, together reaching our own version of victory on a constantly unsteady, shifting plane.
And that’s enough for me.