I rented a place a few blocks away. While it seemed a waste to rent after owning a home, I was convinced that our separation could be more humane and our co-parenting more peaceful if my ex stayed in the apartment.
About eight months after I moved, Jeffrey followed me on Instagram.
“Oh hi!” I said out loud, then scrolled through his entire feed, which revealed a person with about 80 different talents: he was a painter, a chef, an illustrator, a tennis player, a woodcarver, photographer and really into his two cats.
Elizabeth and I had planned to meet for an outdoor drink in the neighborhood. At my suggestion, we ended up including Jeffrey. His presence made me nervous. I drank too much and soon we laughed at our pizza preferences. It was the most fun I had had in a long time, but I wasn’t looking to get involved with anyone anymore, like never before. Since my marriage ended, I had become an expert at staying relaxed and numb. Sometimes I wondered if I had gone to permafrost.
Still, he and I continued to text each other, and I finally invited him for a social-distanced drink on my pandemic-friendly balcony, which ultimately wasn’t very distant socially. Kissing me he said, “I have imagined this so many times.” A strange sensation occurred in my chest. Maybe I was dying?
We spent the night together and the next and the next.
I had had emotional adventures – I was almost unbelievably good at it – but with Jeffrey it was different. I began, in spite of myself, to thaw.
As we got to know each other, I learned that we had both been the most unhappy around the same time, simmering in separate sadness a few floors apart. He brought me tiny and perfect offerings: a trilobite here, a leavened starter there. We had long conversations about life, love, and philosophy that made me feel like part of my brain that had been sleeping for a long time was being shaken.