Today, I’m remembering:
Being newlyweds in Key West in the summer, the heat powerful and perfect, afternoon naps in a papaya-colored room. I remember eating Mexican food outside about an hour before sunset, music playing in a language I don’t understand, the sun winking just over a brown fence, behind a large ficus tree. Rain in Mallory Square—crouching together under a blue poncho, smelling the sweet wet air, watching car blinkers reflecting on the slick ground. Everything is good. Everything is possible. We can celebrate sunset, we can watch cats jump through flaming hula hoops, we can sit in a garden surrounded by birds and orchids, we can get on a big boat and eat cheese and fruit while the wind hits our faces and the warm light hits the tall polished mast. Everything is ours.
And—four years later—my twenty-fifth birthday. I’m in an Italian restaurant in Hong Kong, eating a blissfully good plate of pasta, laughing with friends, enjoying the city at night. I am wearing a necklace Jesse hid in my suitcase as a birthday present, and I’m missing him. But in ways the tinge of pain just heightens the experience, the otherworldly feel of being on the other side of the planet from home.
After the restaurant, or before, I can’t remember, we walk through the street markets, and we haggle and we enjoy it. We have been sharpening our bargaining skills all week, and we walk out of stalls with heads held high, intent on getting the best price. And we do.
The lights of the markets are harsh against the blackness, and it’s perfect, because we are on another planet, or we are in another state of mind, and we feel like magic. The lights buzz and I can feel it on my skin and it feels like energy and excitement. A triumph of human achievement: the electric light, the city sandwiched between water and mountain, the ability to make trinkets and argue over their price. Life is just beginning, and life is perfect.