I arrive in San Francisco and it takes me fifteen minutes in Melissa’s apartment for her to start crying about that she is not married. “I don’t want to have kids alone. I’m not doing that,” she says.
Not really fifteen minutes, but it feels like that. And I’m going to write about her new boyfriend in this post, who is not totally new because he is the same boyfriend from the last post about her new boyfriend, and he will say “It was more like five hours.” So. Okay. Now I have given you his perspective. You can think of this as a fair and balanced post.
Melissa is making a lot of money in her recruiting business, and it is nothing compared to the money J. made in his high-flying San Francisco life (which he is now retired from at age thirty-whatever) so I am staying in their gorgeous apartment with floor-to-ceiling views of the Bay Bridge and an indoor saltwater pool below them
1. Identify the thing you cannot control.
She is worried she shouldn’t hang more pictures on the wall because maybe she’ll just have to take them off.
“Just hang them,” I say. “You can’t control getting married by keeping paintings boxed up on the floor.”
2. Acknowledge your feelings.
Now Melissa is crying about not getting married and J points out that she is the one who wanted to move in together after dating three minutes and Melissa says no, it was J’s idea.
I summon all my years of couples therapy with two husbands and three boyfriends and two parents and I say, “Melissa is sad. It’s no one’s fault. It’s hard to be a woman in her 30s and not know if the relationship is leading to marriage. And J is sad that Melissa is sad and he doesn’t want anyone to think he meant to do anything to hurt Melissa by moving in.”
Also, let me add that Melissa says she was not crying she was only teary.
Turkish rugs, Russian posters, Italian cabinets: Everything in the apartment is great, which proves money can’t buy happiness.
J is annoyed with this situation. What guy wouldn’t be annoyed?
Melissa says if you don’t want to get married, you should go back to dating girls half your age.
J says if you don’t want to live together if we are not getting married, then you should just move out.
I remind everyone that all of this is passive aggressive and then Melissa and J curl up on the midcentury modern sofa that comes with all over-funded millennial relationships, and I sit in the chair that is in the perfect spot for the speakers and we listen to Radiohead.
3. Call a friend.
You know when you read a music review and it says something like “lush, intricate sound”? That’s because the reviewer was listening to the music on J’s speakers.
J is smart and cool and I want him to like me because I want to be smart and cool.
J’s smart and cool friend comes to visit. I am scared to talk because maybe I am boring, and I don’t know what to do with myself because what do people do with themselves if they are not talking?
I take out my needlepoint. I want my needlepoint to be a stuffed frog. But I’m not sure. And I hate when people ask me, “Oh, what are you making?” Because I don’t know.
I ask Melissa if I can go write. She says no. Stay here.
So I go to the bathroom.
The apartment is strewn with souvenirs she swiped from the farm. Like she framed the thank-you cards I used from my first wedding.
I don’t want to be a person who writes the words first wedding. I wish I had made a good decision but I see how hard it is for J and Melissa and it seems impossible to make a good decision. But not impossible to stick with whatever decision you make. I haven’t seen the thank-you cards in years, and it reminds me of how much hope I had in New York with my ex and I am sad enough to sit on the toilet seat til it makes a circle on the backs of my thighs.
I go back to my needlepoint.
J takes out his guitar. He has five. Or ten. It’s unclear. I find them hiding all over the apartment the way I trip over baby kittens in spring on the farm. I notice that J plays his guitar like I needlepoint. To have something to do while figuring out what to do.
The friend leaves and I sneak off to write my post.
4. Shift your focus to what you can control.
Melissa says she needs me to repot her plants.
I don’t want her to talk to me.
Then I want her to edit my post.
She says I should write maybe instead of mildly. “You never use adverbs,” she says. “This doesn’t even sound like you.”
“I don’t feel like me. I miss the boys.”
“It’s okay to miss them but you have to get away sometimes.”
“All I want to do is raise kids. What’s wrong with me? How can I be an ENTJ and love raising kids?”
“You think of each kid as a company.”
I feel like I am in my right place. I ask for coffee and she has it delivered. She also has grilled cheese delivered. And it arrives hot.
Melissa wants to know if I think she should move out.
I say, “Yes. You should. Because I want to live here.”
She says, “Will you repot the plants now?”
“Do you have potting soil?”
“I’ll have some delivered.”
“Oh my god. Wait. Let me just look at the plants.”
The plants look like they fit in the pots just fine. I give a little tug to see if the roots fit. I say, “The plants haven’t had time to grow into the soil. Their roots are untethered.”
“They’ve been in these pots forever. I’ve moved them from Austin to New York to Austin to San Francisco.”
“The plants feel like they’ve been dropped fifty times.”
“I moved them carefully.”
“They need to just sit in their pots without you moving them. Give them a chance to grow.”
Melissa puts the pots in a window.
We do not eat dinner. J has ice cream delivered. And he makes us each an old fashioned.
I fall asleep on farm time to the sounds of J’s Telecaster vibrating through the amplifier.