Aghhhh, I skipped a day! I didn’t mean to. I came home late and was too tired to be productive. This is worth at least two posts.
I shivered as I pushed the numbers on the keypad. “I’m downstairs!” I screamed into the intercom. Bzzzzzzzzzz. After Marc buzzed me in, with the weight of my body pushed expectantly against the front opaque-glazed door, I sauntered up two flights of concrete stairs. Clack, clack, clack went my red Kenneth Cole stiletto heels. The loftiness of the building came through even in the narrow staircase with a window cracked open on each floor. My breath visibly preceded me as I huffed up the stairs. When Mark Twain had said that the coldest winter he ever felt was a summer in San Francisco, he must have been living in a loft.
When I opened the door to the 3rd floor, warm air met my face. I loosened my plaid wool scarf—a Burberry knockoff from New York’s Chinatown. Marc’s loft was at the end of the carpeted hall with a doorbell in the shape of a green lion. Visitors pushed the lion’s golden tongue from side to side to get the doorbell to ring and jangle. All the lofts had standard doorbells except for his. I told him that lions are considered lucky in the Philippines. I made that up, but I’m sure they’re lucky in some part of the world.
I didn’t wiggle the lucky lion’s tongue. Instead I pushed up against Loft #9 while turning the knob. There was no resistance. He never locks the door; guys never lock doors. I swung right in. “Hi Honey, I’m home!” The door clicked back into place behind me. I was in someone else’s home, but felt quite comfortable enough to call it home.
Marc was in the kitchen, pacing. “Hi honey,” he echoed with obligatory hug. Marc looked like he had walked out of a fashion shoot: crisp black oxford shirt, brown velvet blazer, and blue jeans to finish off his look with that Kate Moss ‘I so don’t care what you think, I’m dating scumbag Pete Doherty’ philosophy—even though I know he’d probably spent the night before piecing together his ensemble.
Marc opened up a bottled of our favorite wine. Papapietro Pinot Noir. Half bottle, full price. “That’s how we do our Math,” the attendant at the tasting room in Sonoma had said. I settled in to Marc’s couch, sitting Indian-style, covering my unshaven legs with his fleece blanket, and cupping the glass of red wine in both hands. This was like any other night, relaxing after a day of work. Marc finished sifting through the mail on the kitchen granite top, then came over.
He looked at me and smiled. “Oh, Cathy…you look so beautiful. Right there, sitting on my couch.”
I felt like the great Gatsby, just then, transported from a dark night in San Francisco to the heat of day in East Egg when Daisy Buchanan had declared her love for him. “You look so cool. You always look so cool.” Their love culminated at that moment, then went downhill—accident, car chase, murder.
There were no car chases or murder scenes here, but I wondered what our future held. I radiated at the unexpected compliment, blushing, “That’s so sweet of you to say.” He had confirmed that I fit perfectly into his newly-purchased loft. After three long-term relationships and hundreds of failed dates, I knew he was the one. We were two opposites who had found each other. Despite our different backgrounds, we had one thing in common: we knew how to get exactly what we wanted—everything except the long-term relationship we craved. But finally, we were together and our lives had become entwined.
Marc’s compliment that night while I sat on his couch came out so effortlessly, different from when he had told me he was gay. Back in college, Marc had been brewing silently one night, then built up the courage to come out, “Cathy, I have to tell you something. You know that girl I’ve been dating? Well, I lied. I’ve been dating a man. His name is Michael. I’m gay.”
Now twelve years later, I had fallen in love without the romance with my best friend—my gay best friend. I wished I could find someone just like Marc, someone who would love me completely—with intimacy. We had none of that—sex or even French kisses.
In high school, when I had met Marc, I thought it was only in literature where love couldn’t be consummated. Poor nymphomaniac Brett and erectile dysfunctioned Jake from The Sun Also Rises. How could two people love each other so much, but never be together?
We were classmates in Freshman English. On the first day, when our teacher asked a question and he responded correctly, I was smitten. He also had courage—innately he had it, while the rest of us pre-pubescent teenagers like the cowardly lion were searching for courage to be our own person through the corridors of high school. No one sat in the front row and there he was. Textbook opened to the Table of Contents ready to soak in 19th century English literature while the jocks blew spitballs at each other in the back of the room.
When he rebuffed my advances like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, I Catherine recoiled. He became my arch-nemesis. We closed out high school tenure with me giving one of the high school commencement addresses; his speech followed mine. He upstaged me, graduating at the top with me not far behind–but always behind.
Our lives continued like that both as college students at Berkeley, then afterwards as we began our careers at a startup together. When he ended up moving on to a better position at a better company, I knew I had to break out of his shadow. So I moved to Chicago and got my MBA.
When I came back, we became even better friends. We needed each other, single, boyfriend-less, lonely. When the boys didn’t call me, I had my backup. “Marky, can I come over? I’ll bring a bottle of Pinot.”
That night when he told me how cute I looked sandwiched between his furniture, for the first time, I wished he wasn’t gay. I knew he loved me—unconditionally.
Now when I go to Marc’s loft, for fun, I always jangle the lion doorbell before walking brusquely in—even though I know the door is unlocked. It reminds me to have the courage to walk through life confidently, open to the unexpected, and hoping that lions bring good luck.