We'd only actually gone out a few times before last weekend, but Tabbatha and I had been talking on the phone more and more often, every day, usually a couple times every day. The conversations had grown longer, and had gotten into ever more personal territory. We were feeling each other out, and satisfied with the results, continued to dig even deeper, both of us perhaps looking for something to discourage us, finding instead reasons to continue.
I was going to be gone last weekend, and felt some sadness at leaving her for so long. (Sad, isn't it?) She invited me to a birthday party for a friend of hers on Friday night, a chance to get together before I left on Saturday morning.
After the party, and the consumption of much alcohol, we were bleary-eyed and exhausted when we finally crashed at my place at three AM. Common sense would have told us to get some sleep, but we didn't. We talked and talked, interrupted by ocasional bursts of physical activity, until Tabbatha finally wound up falling asleep around six, and I drifted off shortly thereafter.
But not for long, since I had to leave later that morning. I was up and about while she still slept, but eventually she awoke, and I layed beside her in bed. And--here's a surprise--we started talking some more, trying to define the exact nature of our relationship:
"So," I said, "are we, like, seeing each other?"
"Well yeah," she answered. "Obviously."
"But I mean, seeing each other seeing each other? What should I call you?"
"Are you, like, officially my girlfriend?"
"Yeah. I suppose..."
"Then I would be--"
"--You would be my boyfriend."
Okay, I realize how tentative this conversation must seem, how pathetic and lame on my part, but damn near five years after my marriage ended, this is the first time I've wanted to call someone my girlfriend. There have been women I've seen, women I've been interested in, women I've dated on a regular basis. But not this. This is something more, something wonderful and exhilirating and terrifying.
Terrifying, I suppose, because of its intensity. I've felt this strongly before, and ultimately it led to overwhelming pain. And there are unknowables here. Tabbatha has a seven year old son. I've met him, he seems like a great kid, but my ex and I were childless by choice, and I've never lived with a kid before. And Tabbatha wants more children.
That would have been a signal to cut and run once, but now...things have changed. Part of me is afraid that my feelings for her are so strong I'll agree to any damn thing she wants without thinking of the consequences, but no, I don't really think that's it.
My mother's death caused me to reevaluate my life. I'd thought I would live a kind of gypsy existence, moving from one place to another, always exploring, unsettled, vaguely unfullfilled, but full of incident--a life lived without compromises, except for emotional ones. But Tabbatha wants to stay in one place, to put down roots and be part of a family. And suddenly that doesn't sound like a bad thing. In fact, it sounds...good.
We continued to hang out last Saturday until I realized I was beginning to run late, I packed, grabbed some things for the weekend away and it was time to go. I walked Tabbatha to her car, we kissed and I watched her drive away. I got in my car, started it and the song that immediately came on the radio was Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, one of the most perfect pop songs ever, and an amazing evocation of the thrill of falling in love.
Coincidence? After that song, the station went to a commercial, so I flipped the dial. Literally the next song I heard was Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now, with its insanely optimistic lyrics:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day
No, I decided, this is not a coincidence. Things will be okay. Life awaits, and right now, it's looking like better days are ahead.