There was recognition, a sense that we had once known each other in another time or another place, but no longer recognized the other. He sat across from me back-dropped by a bright, whitewashed restaurant with crisp white linens and wine glasses for the water. His eyes were an astonishing color of pale blue, forget-me-nots perhaps or robinâ€™s eggs. Their color was unexpected, hadnâ€™t shown up in the smiling eyes of the black and white photos of himself that he had emailed me from Barcelona. I had assumed a dark brown or green and olive skin, but he was fair, freckled, â€œhis Irish roots,â€ he explained, as if needing to apologize. Besides the photos of himself, he had sent photos of sensual, curving spaces, rotundas and curling Gaudi balconies, seducing me with form. He was an architect. Form was his language â€“ he spoke visually. I had been seduced.
I had already relieved myself of the dreaded widow conversation, dragging the elephant in the room through those emails between Seattle and Barcelona.
â€œI donâ€™t much care about your past,â€ he was now saying. I was caught off guard. This isnâ€™t the usual sentence a widow hears. Mostly the sentences are stuffed with platitudes: Sorry for your loss, Iâ€™m sorry, that must have been so difficult, I canâ€™t imagineâ€¦ Perhaps my mouth opened in surprise. In seven years of dating, countless friendly job-interview-like dates, this was a new outlook. To not care about my past.
I had already been trying to shed my widow-ness, fearful that it was a place where I had dwelled too long, nesting in its comfort, its safety. It was time to rewrite the personal narrative. Piece-by-piece I was beginning to dismantle my widow armor: removing the thick layer of sadness and its unexpected crying jags, shedding the guilt that came with my increasing laughter, kicking off the loneliness that accompanied Christmas parties brimming with joyous couples. It had taken almost nine years to get to this place: to be a woman instead of a widow. A happy, vibrant, intelligent, alive woman.
â€œItâ€™s the blank canvas that I am interested in,â€ he continued, his hands creating a square across the white tablecloth, making the metaphor a literal one. â€œSure, those things in the past can make up a thin line around the edges, like a frame, but inside that framework that is what I am interested in. I want to create something new with whomever Iâ€™m with. Together we get to decide on the colors and the paint strokes and although the past might influence those decisions, what we create together would be entirely new.â€
It was almost possible to hear the clatter of my widow-ness hit the ground at that moment. It had officially become part of my framework instead of the painting itself.