My first time I saw Steve outside work he’d invited me to come see him play music, on or near this day in 2008. I drove about two hours south to see him and his friend set up at a Starbucks, where the barrista had been slipping whiskey into the frappuccionos in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. There was hardly anyone else in the audience. I was skeptical, but they started singing and he turned out to have this fun, FM radio kind of voice. I wished there’d been enough people that I could have danced. We went out to get a drink after, and I learned he’d been a rock star in his early 20s. He told me about his family and his marriage ending. I told him I was still pining for an unattainable English guy who I was going to visit the next month.
After stories and deciding we’d be friends, we drove off together. He in his big black Toyota truck, me in my zippy little blue Prius. We were both going north, and we tailed each other, weaving in and out of traffic, together, separately. It felt like that big black truck was a kind of guardian angel on the road beside me, until we diverged at the 605.
Things moved forward. We dated, broke up, dated, broke up, and dated again after he learned one of my all-time favorite songs, “Could It Be Magic” by Barry Manilow, and played it for me at a small open mic in Hollywood. We married, we became parents. We unraveled.
Today we met to sign divorce papers. As far as these things go, I’ve seen uglier. We’ve been trying to be rational and put our kid’s needs above everything else. It was awkward and quiet in that office, with the rude paralegal who wasn’t ready for our appointment, who missed a critical correction and who talked on the phone to another client who needed some kind of rush job on an estate document.
We sat at a desk and plowed through the stack, signing and dating, signing and dating. When we were done, in the moment I asked if she could send me copies, Steve disappeared. I went out the door seconds later, and his black truck was gone. I don’t know how one proceeds with these things. A hug? Go out to dinner? Maybe doing nothing was better.
I got in my car to go home, turned the corner, and saw Steve’s big black truck stopped at the light. We tailed and passed each other for a mile or so, until we diverged: Him to go to his house, or to maybe spring our daughter a little early from preschool, and me to my next appointment, with my estate attorney to plan my will.
On nights like these, a handful of dark chocolate peanut butter cups is a perfectly justifiable dinner.