The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

February 17, 2004

Two tables

Originally posted to Diary-X

We were sitting at the kitchen table in the apartment that we shared, Rachael and I. We had graduated from college two months earlier and were living on the first floor of an old Victorian house near downtown Grand Rapids. We had real jobs in the real world—she worked in public relations for a think tank (I never did understand what its employees were supposed to be thinking about); I was a glorified admin assistant in a corporate communications department, scrounging around for opportunities to write and edit in between filing and answering the phones. It was late July.

We had made a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. In the middle of our meal, Rachael put down her fork, turned to me and asked: “Is this all there is?”

I knew that she was not talking about the food. (In our apartment, there was always a box of Rice Krispies and a bag of marshmallows for post-meal sweet cravings. The girl was a Rice Krispie treat-making machine, and I happily kept her in business.) No, she was talking about how the weather was warm and green and sunny, and we were spending our days pent-up in gray upholstered cubes, like we would be in the fall, and winter, and spring. I suspected that sitting in a desk chair for eight hours a day was having an adverse effect on my weight, and I felt old and tired by ten o’clock at night. Gone was the off-campus house full of girls, the spontaneous late-night chats in someone’s bedroom, the communal meals in front of Simpsons re-runs, the cigarette shared on the front porch, the flurry of someone always leaving or getting home at all hours of the day or night. Now there was routine. Mind-numbing routine. We were done with school, we were living adult lives in the adult world, and, well, it kinda sucked. Was this how it would be from now on? Was this life?

“I hope not,” I answered. Her expression mirrored my feelings: a little sad, a little worried, a little disillusioned.

I remembered that conversation this past weekend, on Valentine’s Day, sitting across from my husband at a little table at Vivo, an Italian restaurant in the West Loop. It was around nine-thirty, and we were waiting for our entrees to arrive. There was a half-finished bottle of Chianti and a tall, half-melted red candle between us. The movie Roman Holiday was being projected on sheets of white gauze hanging from the ceiling, so whenever I looked over John’s shoulder I was treated to mopeds and Audrey Hepburn and the Spanish Steps. We were surrounded by several of the Beautiful People, and we’d attempted to disguise ourselves as two of them. We were having fun.

And suddenly, that kitchen-table conversation from almost six years ago flashed through my mind. And I thought, if this is all there is, I am happy with that. Life is good. I have this man, this man across the table from me in the black v-neck sweater, and he loves me and I love him and he will always be with me. I have a good job where I don’t file or answer phones, and I fill my spare time with challenging freelance work and classes that I’m taking toward a master’s degree. I belong to a spiritually and intellectually stimulating church. I own a home that I love. I live in an exciting city and I see new and different things every day. We have enough money to go out and celebrate our relationship with a damn good meal.

If this is all there is, I’m satisfied.

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