A live blues band plays as it pours outside of the little honky tonk. Lightning flickers through stained glass windows, casting pink shadows on the floor, and a couple slow-dances around the bar owner's dog as –
"Madi," my friend, Matt, says. "Isn't tonight the coolest?"
Looking at Matt, I'm reminded of this story about a husband that'd known his wife for decades. Looking in his wife's eyes, the husband saw her not just as she is now in her 40s, but also as a 19 year old laughing at college, at 28 dancing with their toddlers, at 37 walking hand in hand after they'd moved.
He saw her in every chapter of their lives together, all at once.
When I see Matt, I see us in September 2020; our naive, wild era. We're prancing through million dollar homes, me wearing a $9 H&M hot pink mini dress and him, Hawaiian shorts. I'm a flashy platinum blonde and his hair goes down to his waist. We eat spicy tacos and sip on too-sweet coffees and marvel at the endless promise of this cool city we call home.
I also see him a year later in July 2021. Faces covered with glitter, I'm still very blond, but my hair is damaged and brassy. He still has long hair, but it's pulled back and severe. Everything we attend is larger than life, and everyone we know is incredibly important and fancy or even famous, but there are circles under our eyes that no amount of trendy vegan food or espresso cocktails can fix.
I see my 2022 alone. A dark year. Fading into a grey nothing. Pages running dry, no excitement, no art, no scheming and no glitter anywhere.
When I clawed my way out of it, I made some drastic changes. I found nourishing friends who were opposite from the ones before. Only good-hearted folks and soul-filling activities made the cut.
So imagine my surprise when Matt showed up in the same wholesome era as well. We found each other two-stepping in old converted railroad cars. Stargazing through telescopes. The other week we ended up at the same dinner party, me in an expensive, modest, understated dress and him in nice slacks and a button down. Me, a quiet brunette, and him with short, dapper hair.
"How'd you make it here with me?" I asked. "You're the only one who has."
"I went through a tough time this year too. I cut out old friends, cut off old hair, you know, I shoulda done it years ago. I took up dancing and I found a purer kind of joy. I always had good values, but, now I'm acting on them."
Which brings me back to this moment, where Matt says, "Madi. Isn't tonight the coolest?"
Looking in his eyes, we're both seeing all of each other's chapters, all at once.
Thunder shakes the walls, and the bar owner's dog opens the front door with its paw like a human. Tonight's dance partner, Eric, takes me by the hand, and we spin until the the whole room blurs into smiles and laughter and pink shadows and lightning and pouring rain.
He's right. Our wholesome era really is the coolest.