I don’t remember much about the day but it was December 5, I know that much, it was Dawn’s friend Joey’s birthday and after our first date, where Dawn and I went to Whidbey Island, we went back to Joey’s place to celebrate. He was still drinking then and older than us, closing in on 40. He didn’t work and was just doing theater, had inheritance money I think, was learning stage combat and getting certified for working with swords and knives and stuff. That was the first time I heard the early John Lennon solo records, one where he was screaming, punk rock style. I got the CD but was immediately disappointed, it didn’t work right taken out of context from Joey’s party, a failed transplant. Joey’s brother played drums for the Violent Femmes and when I gushed over that he didn’t seem pleased, it seemed to sicken him.
Dawn and I started spending most nights together and she told her ex-boyfriend Reggie it was time for him to go (he’d been staying in her apartment on the sofa, even though they weren’t together still). Everyone was in the same cast for a show Dawn was directing, I was helping out with sound. Nobody cared or thought any of it was weird, me included. Reggie had good taste in music and like me, liked to drink and laugh, to have fun.
Sometimes I’d spend the night at Dawn’s and lie on her bed while she was getting ready for work in the morning, the sound of her blow dryer going. She was in Fremont near a café where Dave Matthews sightings were common. And we were both secretaries then, she a receptionist for a failing engineering firm downtown and me, for Starbucks. We spent a lot of time during the day emailing each other; email was kind of new then and we were both bored.
We spent Y2K on another island at a friend of her mom who lived there with a much younger boyfriend, Indonesian I think. He was nearly our age, nobody cared. At midnight there was nothing more than a toast and then we went to bed soon after, and woke the next day to a new century, though it feels like time can’t touch you on the islands.
Dawn moved in around February and we’ve lived together 17 years now. A couple years later I asked her dad permission to propose to her—we walked down to their rec room and he smiled, but a half-smile, said yes, but why’d you take so long to ask? And I didn’t have a good answer. Somewhere on the flanks of Mount Rainier coming off the mountain, still in the halo of 9/11 I realized it was time, we weren’t going to live forever.
Though it was December in the Pacific Northwest, we had enough sun there was a stretch of beach we could walk along near Langley, I remember that. We walked side by side and it was the first time we held hands, how that small gesture said something…and when we arrived at Joey’s we’d been to dinner and shared a bottle of wine, we had that glow, and they were likely talking about us before we came and after we left…and I guess then we both wanted the same thing we still do, just to be together. Maybe that’s why we can’t remember anything else from that small town, going back there all these years later, with our kids. We could have been anywhere, and not noticed anything else.