People have asked me over the past couple of years since my divorce if it is hard to go to certain cities or certain places that my ex and I used to travel to and what kind of memories does that trigger. It is a fair question because we traveled together and independently all of the time while we were together, it was one of our favorite things to do. But, because of how many places we went together, there isn't just one that was "ours." Seemingly half the world has some memory attached to it and therefore not making one place more special than the other by those standards.
When you are with someone for as long as we were together, all aspects of life carry a similar coating of memories. If you wanted to, you could find a memory about most holidays, most cuisines, and most blocks in NYC. They are all there, but because there are so many of them, they can stay jumbled and no one memory has to be called out.
But then there are the things that out of no where dive straight through all the clutter and bring out the memories that you had forgotten you'd forgotten. That's what happened to me today at lunch.
I have been scrambling for over a month on two very clear cut, but very aggressive, business goals that have seemingly needed more than every waking minute of my day. I hit peak bachelorhood a couple weeks ago when I realized on the same day that I didn't have a single dish to use or a single piece of clean underwear to wear. I honored commitments to travel to Mexico and Chile on two separate weekends but barely landed in either country before I was already packing to return to the battlefield waiting for me in the office on Monday.
Today was one of those kinds of days where I looked up and saw it was almost 2pm and I hadn't grabbed lunch. I ran downstairs and walked past the Indian restaurant on my block for the thousandth time, but decided they looked less busy than normal and I could run in and run out. I sat down and ordered my Murgh special, pulled out my phone and started to catch up on some texts and emails that had piled up.. As the table next to me paid and walked out of the restaurant, I looked up to the front door as they left. And there it was: The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano.
This painting was a wedding present from one of the most incredible humans I have ever known. She was officially a "cousin-in-law" but she was closer to me than any of my real cousins have ever been. She was the first family I ever had in NYC, the one who cheered on moving to the big city and chasing down dreams. She was the family that you spent every holiday with if you could because she loved family tradition more than anyone. And most of all, she was the one who always saw you better than you saw yourself. She gave us that painting right after we'd eloped and told us that we were the dancing couple and that our families were holding the umbrellas deflecting the storms that might rage around us so that we could dance the dance of life without worry.
She gave it to us weeks before she told us she'd been diagnosed with cancer. She referenced it countless times during her short and swift battle with cancer. Fuck cancer.
And so today, while ripping apart my naan bread to dip in my just served entree, I was stopped in my tracks as a memory unlike all the rest came washing over me and brought me back to a very different time and a very different place in life.
I didn't finish my lunch. But with to-go bag in hand, took a walk through my neighborhood to clear my head and to be in a place to think about the memory that that painting triggered. I felt all of it and ended up walking back into my apartment in the way that I know my cousin would have wanted me to: smiling and celebrating that that memory triggered all of the other amazing memories I had with her and taking some time today to celebrating her life.