On Friday night, Newman and I went to see my friend Miranda perform. I had bought the tickets ages ago, when they first went on sale, and it was the first date that Newman added to the calendar of his new smartphone. We were not going to miss it for anything. We’d go from work, we decided–drive up early to avoid traffic and then have a lovely, leisurely dinner on the North Shore before the show.
Then my mother called to ask me to pick her up from the airport on the same night. “My flight gets in around 4:30,” she said. No big deal: I’d pick her up, give her the car, and have Newman pick me up somewhere between here and there.
Then on Thursday morning, Free’s dad “reminded” me he’d be out of town for the entire holiday weekend. He swears he told me months ago. Here’s how I feel about that: A) I’m a notorious over-planner, and on the rare occasions when he gives me dates ahead of time, it’s a big priority for me to make note of them. I have no recollection of him giving me this date. I’m just saying. B) If he did indeed tell me (once) months ago, I think at least one reminder within, say, a week or two of the event, might have been a good idea, no? Especially considering that I give him at least five reminders for every event he’s responsible for? Sigh.
To our credit, we minimized the freak-out factor in front of Free, and he helped me figure out a plan for someone to pick her up after Brownies so I could get my mom from the airport. My mom agreed to watch Free for the night at our house that night before returning home. Then Newman agreed to pick Free up from Brownies himself and then meet us at the airport to save me at least an hour of driving in rush-hour traffic. Once I settled Free and her grandmother into the car with sandwiches and drinks for the ride home, Newman and I were able to begin our drive north. We decided to stop for dinner near the airport first, hoping the traffic would ease up, and it did, allowing us to get to the show right on time, knowing Free and her grandmother were already safely home.
The show began at 8pm. Newman and I had been up since 5am and were still decked out in the same clothes we’d worn to work, but at least it was casual Friday, so we got to wear jeans. We wouldn’t normally go so far on a Friday night; we are both early-to-bed people and both needed to be “on” for our kids the next morning.
As I said before, however, we were not going to miss this for anything.
You see, the last time I had tickets to Miranda’s show, Newman did miss it. He had been looking forward to it; he had met Miranda and her husband Doug, old friends of mine, and had enjoyed their company. He was eager to hear her perform, and he wanted to get to know her better as she was one of my oldest and dearest friends. I had been thrilled for them to meet; I hoped Miranda would see what I saw in Newman, and I wasn’t disappointed. She liked him, and more importantly, she seemed to like him as a partner for me. I remembered that when Free’s dad had first made the rounds of being introduced to my friends, Miranda had been the only one to express reservations. I didn’t like her for it at the time, but I knew that she would be honest with me, and her assessment was valuable as she had known me for so long. She was one of the friends I had not lost in the process of my divorce; in fact, I had seen and talked to her more since the separation than in the last few years before it.
As Newman and I made the last turn into town to get to the performance center, I spotted the pier where I had pulled over before the show two years ago. The memory of that night came back as I saw myself then, having just broken up with Newman. I had finally determined that he wasn’t capable of a real commitment, wasn’t ready to be with me the way I was ready to be with him. We had been fighting for months; I knew neither of us could go on the way we were, and I knew one of us had to be strong enough to end it while we still loved each other. I wanted to make the decision with clarity, and whatever had happened that week had brought us to the edge of the cliff with nowhere to go but back. Newman wasn’t ready to dive in; that much I knew, and I couldn’t do it for him. It was time to end it.
I had called a friend (who knew nothing about Newman) to join me at the concert, and I pulled into the parking lot near the pier and cried for a whole hour, then tried the best I could to catch my breath and clear my head before I met my friend. Newman had wanted to come with me, wanted to stay together, wanted to stay where we were for a little while longer. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t let him keep holding me at arm’s length while he simultaneously worked his way into my world, closer to my friends and into my circle. At the same time, it was the hardest thing in the world to face that concert without him.
This time around, after we parked the car, Newman held me close as we walked down the street toward the concert. We made our way in and were greeted by Doug, who congratulated us on having made it to the concert together this time. We laughed; he and Miranda are in our circle now, well aware of our ups and downs and supportive of our journey despite our past drama. We found our seats and settled in.
Miranda took the stage and owned it, confidently and completely, for the next two hours. Newman was rightfully impressed by her voice, her range, and the skills of the band, even remarking to me that the fiddle player did, in fact, deserve to be wearing the jaunty hat he had donned for the evening–the highest of praise from Newman. I was satisfied to be able to enjoy the show without the heavy layers of emotion that colored it for me last time around. I watched as Miranda performed for the crowd, flirting with an older man in the front row as he sat with his date. It made me giggle as the man ate it up, even taunting Doug about it during the intermission. “That’s how you’ll be when you’re older,” I told Newman, and I liked being able to see it–him at that age, flirting gallantly and appreciatively with younger women and holding my hand the whole time.
Remembering the heartache of my last visit to this place, I was able to appreciate how Newman and I had, as a couple, negotiated the mundane details of getting there. We finally got to go to Miranda’s concert, something we’ve literally been wanting to do for years. We finally got to slip into an audience together to watch my–now our–friend do what she does best. Seeing her onstage and hearing her sing is like watching a professional bartender make your favorite drink. You know it’s going to be good, and you settle in to enjoy the details of the presentation: the ingredients, the mix, and the pour all coming together to hit a perfect score.
I know how busy Miranda’s life is, so I know what it takes for her to commit to doing this show. Watching her, I was able to see how all the drama and the work involved in getting there can all fall away once you’re onstage. To see her there was so great; as I told Newman, she’s always been this amazing performer, even when she was just singing in the kitchen in the first crummy apartment we shared in college. That she’s making it work so well in front of crowds (and yet still so true to who she is) is inspiring; I hope we can all find that stage to work toward and return to in our own lives.
Maybe one stage for me is where Newman and I are now, working in tandem to find a rhythm that maintains our passion while minimizing our heartache. It was enough, for me, for now, to watch Miranda light up the room while sitting next to Newman, knowing that two years ago, I didn’t think that would ever be possible.