Earlier this year, I was invited to a wedding at The Driskill in Austin — I was one of the people who suggested the hotel as *the* perfect super-Texas venue, so I was really looking forward to seeing a bunch of friends…friends at the wedding, and friends I know from elsewhere.
Thinking about the trip one day, out of the blue, I messaged an ex-boyfriend who lives there now to see if he wanted to get together on the Friday I was flying in, for a late lunch before the rehearsal supper.
But that was so much harder than it sounds.
So much harder. During school, we’d spent a couple of just super-fun years of being together, but I realized that it wasn’t going to work out long term. I could-not-waitttt to get my degrees, start my career, move away and have a big life, and he didn’t have those kinds of aspirations — he trusted that college and career and those kinds of things were just going to come together without having to think or work too hard at it. He wasn’t religious and didn’t have fantasies about kids and fun trips, while I was literally filling notebooks with what I thought a beautiful life would look like. We were fun at 19 but I realized it wasn’t for keeps.
I wanted that guy I was dreaming about in my notebooks. The one who knew what ‘scattered, smothered, and covered’ meant *and* who knew Maimonides’ eight levels of charity. Well rounded, y’all.
So. One summer, my boyfriend and I broke up. We went our own directions. We weren’t upset at each other, just moving on.
But it got even more complicated.
At the end of the summer, he had a terrible accident and broke his neck. I was at a friend’s house when I got the news. It was just so casual. “Did you know he hit a tree and broke his neck?” and I remember a weird little yelp escaped from my throat. I had to get to the hospital.
It was terrible. He was alive, but paralyzed. His hands were all curled up, he couldn’t move anything, and he was in one of those metal halos.
I walked in the door and that was it: we were a team again. I canceled all my classes and my residence was a vinyl hospital chair. Time stood still for weeks, for months. We read the big red collection of Allen Ginsberg poems over and over (‘A Supermarket in California’ — our fave — maybe a million times), we listened to music, we told stories based on fact and made up others with fantastical endings.
More time went by as he was discharged to rehab, then was able to come back to our hometown. There was more rehab there.
As months went by, I saw our friends going back and forth to wherever their universities were. One day at his house, I admitted that while I didn’t want to leave him, I was scared. I needed to finish my last two years of college. I’d worked enough minimum-wage fast food and summer factory jobs while going to school (ohmygoooosh that summer I spent between freshman year and sophomore year at an un-airconditioned factory at which I was literally tethered by the wrists to metal-bending press machine the size of a small car) to know it wasn’t just going to fall into place if I didn’t get back on track.
It was weird, because after the wreck, we never ‘got back together’ or talked about being a couple, so it’s not like we had to break up again.
He told me it was okay.
(above: my dorm room with pics of him. Clements Hall obviously didn’t yet know the fab of the Ole Miss dorm makeover.)
Here’s what happened: I went back to school and felt guilty for leaving. So I put off calling. And then I felt even more guilty for going a few days without calling that I didn’t have the courage to call him then. And so on.
I knew he was going to be okay, but I was afraid just the fact that I had been doing things was going to be hurtful. He was stuck in a bed or at rehab, and I was running off to classes and trying to fake being a regular college kid. When I wasn’t cramming material for assignments or working a register somewhere, I was horseback riding and eating at Taco Bell at odd hours and spending time with other kids our age who hadn’t had anything crazy happen. We weren’t just two teens in a time capsule anymore. Guilt ate me alive. I felt like such a faker to everyone: everything’s awesome! while inside I have a hole in my heart the size of a teenage boy.
Years ago, we friended on FB but I had no idea what he was up to, other than he was living in Austin.
So I messaged him about lunch. And he offered to pick me up from the airport.
And oh. He parked, stood up, and walked (not perfectly, but ohmygosh he.can.walk!) over. It was like nothing ever happened. He even had some of our old music playing in the car. It was the 90s all over again. It was good having our team back.
There was a point, though, I told him how crazy sorry I was for leaving him so I could finish school, and for not knowing how to navigate both those worlds. He understood. He was still the person who figured things were just going to work out.
We had a great weekend. We had lunch at Lonesome Dove (okay I have to put some more pics in this post. Here’s the restaurant — you’ve probably seen owner Tim Love on telly):
elk -foie sliders with blueberry jam — yummmm
some of the best bread everrr
meatloaf — meh
brisket with Mexican street corn — the brisket was meh too but the corn was out of this world good.
He showed me some of Austin, then when it was time, dropped me off at the Driskill so I could get ready for the rehearsal party, which was fun.
The next day he texted and asked me if he could take me to Salt Lick, so we did that:
ribssssss were soooo goood (Av says since I’ve shown him these pics and told him about it, he’s totally ready to go to Salt Lick — we have a yearly Texas trip which of course includes a trip to Lockhart, but he’s ready to include Driftwood now)
…and I got shug the fab B R I S K E T tee there.
He’s super happy. He has a girlfriend, Austin suits him great, he has this big circle of friends, and he does what he enjoys. I called his mom when I got home and it was so good. So, so good.
And I didn’t realize then, but those notebooks I filled with ideas about the future with a beautiful family life…turns out I met that guy and married him (and yes, Av knows those eight levels *and* the way to order hashbrowns at Waffle House (even though he just likes them plain)).
So call your ex-boyfriends. ha! Not really. Okay, maybe. Alright, do it. If you do, I hope it turns out this great.
We talked about what I could bring back for Av and the boys, and he suggested Voodoo Doughnuts which was just down from the Driskill. I think EVERYbody in the airports (AUS –> DFW –> BHM) who knew what that pink box meant was totally jealous.
A girlfriend and I stood in line to get them that Sunday morning — they’re open 24/7, even. Cash only.
This awesome Mona Superhero 8’x16′ duct tape masterpiece was on one wall
That’s a tribute doughnut — whenever someone famous passes away, they create a big doughnut with their likeness. They’re not for sale.
I had one of the plain ones once I got home, and it was fab. All the ones I got were yeast doughnuts, and everybody was super-happy with what I picked out. Voodoo puts fresh stuff on IG all the time.
Also on Sunday: another friend took me to Palvos where they have their own salsa bar, and to the Cathedral of Junk — I’ll post pics from that visit soon. Faaaab.
(from Supermarket in California:) Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?