When I was a young woman of twenty-five I learned to drink bourbon with a boy who drank only the best. For years I bought him one of those bottles of Maker's Mark that come out around Christmas time: you know, the ones with a bit of green wax cascading down over the usual red. We would pull it out on special occasions and nurse it along through the following year.
He fell in love with another woman one December a few years back, took her home to his grad school pad after a night out on the town just after the New Year, broke up with me not long after that.
Two weeks later he came back to the home we'd shared for five years to collect his passport, some clothes, those books and CDs he just couldn't live without.
I, still in denial, had already bought his Valentines Day present: Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and the Shins' Wincing the Night Away. He ate Indian takeout from around the corner and admonished me for not being able to eat. We drank the expensive Oregon Pinot Noir my mother had given him for Christmas just weeks before. And then he left to go pick up his new woman at the airport. I guess he liked the new CDs too because he made sure to take them with him.
I cried for a month after that. On trains, on buses, on the phone, in my office, on couches (my own and other people's couches), in my sleep when it came. I took to drinking a bit and then a bit more of that cheerful Christmas-y bottle of Maker's Mark after work most evenings, followed later, as sleep refused to come, by a nip of Nyquil.
I got through that Valentine's Day with the help of another boy central to my life, my Nater, and each has gotten progressively easier, progressively nicer. Last year it was a walk around Fort Tryon Park and a dinner of sushi and plum wine.
Last Friday I met a dear old friend for drinks before dinner at Nice Matin. We talked about men (both the presence of and the lack thereof), jobs, politics, haircuts, the usual things women talk about. She went from one kind of drink to another but I -- I fell in love a bit with their bourbon cocktail: Woodford reserve, honey, a bit of lemon and a touch of thyme on the rocks.There was something particularly lovely about that hour perched on stools at the bar, sipping my bourbon drink and chatting with Jill and waiting for my boy to arrive. Something particularly lovely and also a long, long time coming.
Four years it's taken to get to this morning and the quiet pleasure of looking forward to a surprise dinner I know my Evan will love. (There is a grilled squid on the menu, I believe, and marinated olives, and as long as there's that, I know he will not go hungry tonight.)
Yesterday morning I ran downstairs to Frank's Market to grab a few last items for a brunch with Erica. A double handful of oyster mushrooms. Butter. A big sweet onion. I was lucky enough to get Sally at the checkout and we chatted about her daughters, her grandchildren, and their impending arrival from Florida. She asked what I was making with these particular groceries and I explained that my boyfriend was attempting vegetarian biscuits & gravy for brunch. She paused and looked me up and down and said, "You're looking very happy these days. Very content. And I hope you have a really wonderful Valentine's Day tomorrow."
She is right, and I will.