Walking the streets of the old, marbled city, and feeling the humidity settle on my cheeks like a blush, and pausing by the thick clumps of lilac bushes long enough to leave perfumed and violet, and then remembering the taste of the summers back then, and the bars back then, and the men back then, and thinking about the rushed excitement and anticipation of tipsy happy hour conversations, and the blistering rub of those tired days when I took the bus to work, when I chose to trudge the three miles home, because maybe then I could outpace the horrible truth that I loved him with an urgency and a consumption that, cities and years later, still astounds me—
I think: We are just stories.
Because the constants remain: the lights on the corner of 21st and P St., and the first sharp curve of Connecticut Avenue hitting Dupont Circle, and the wide, busy stretch of K Street, and the soft, gentle, perfect arch that carries you across Memorial Bridge to meet her golden stallions, always poised in a silent, grand finale on the Washington, DC side.
The constants remain: The Potomac still churns with an unfortunate brown tint.
A one-block walk, and you still catch the tourist, the lobbyist, the intern, the homeless, the privileged Georgetown-ian, the radical, the Republican, the high sheriff, the harried staffer, each charging (or settling) into the day with a purpose. Because this is Washington, DC, damn it. We’ve got an agenda!
My yoga studio has not changed its sign, its front windows, the bulk of its teaching staff, even its annual membership pricing. (I hope, for the students’ sake, they’ve at least changed the carpets and perhaps the rental mats.)
Happy hour runs rampant still. Even at Starbucks. You know you’re in our nation’s capitol when you can even enjoy your coffee for half off during the hours of 3 to 5 p.m.
On NBC, that same wrinkled, rumpled, greying man drabbles on about the weather forecast, which, still, includes a regular dose of thunderstorm warnings.
On every street corner, I still search for her face among the passer-bys.
I remember it so then. I remember it so clearly. I see it so plainly now.
The change is that many of the characters from my stories then—I have written them out of my stories now. I realize I have, in large part, even written Washington out, too.
But, when I go back, each time, the constants remain, and it is as though I am visiting you all over again. It is as though I revert to the woman I was then, when we were young and new, our pockets full of stories, cheeks flushed with warmth, my hand drifting toward yours, letting time disappear.
And there, on the bedside table stands a bouquet of your lilacs, violet and vased, wading in shallow, green water.