What Makes a Good Relationship So Hard to Find
There's an old photo of the Band on our wall: five men in a field, stony and still. I love that picture, and Kevin, for whom I bought it a month after we met. The Band inspires in him a dear reverence; in 2012, he even slipped through a fence at late drummer and singer Levon Helm's house to pay his respects.
When Kevin and I met, I'd just ended a ten-year marriage, and he'd been alone for a decade. One girl broke his heart. Two stopped calling. Several vanished after one date. Kevin has kind eyes, firm arms and charm enough to win over fussy babies, ornery dogs, my ex-husband's parents (long story). He went to college, reads heartily, is a great kisser. He'd rather pull his own teeth than tell a lie. Some days I come home to an old-fashioned and a steak twinkling with finishing salt. My friend calls him the Unicorn. Who could dismiss such a man? I can only guess. Maybe on one date there was food on his chin. Maybe he wore his glasses and the girl hated glasses. One girl told him he'd mislaid his "moral compass," a judgment so bizarre you have to wonder whether she understood the phrase; maybe these girls were just dumb.
If you've heard any song by the Band, it's probably "The Weight." The song is not inherently sad, but to me it's always seemed to be imbued with weariness. Life can be like that. A person can, after serial defeat, carry on with grace but be burdened by loss—even for something he never had.
Kevin has many friends. For years, he went alone to their birthdays, sat at the head of the table so the couples could sit together. In 2015, he attended an out-of-town wedding. His friends joked that on the plane home he'd be seated next to The One. Kevin couldn't say why the joke stirred his hope, but it did. When he boarded, a grandma sat on one side, a grown woman clutching a teddy bear on the other. He laughed—it was funny. But he felt like a final thread had been cut. Hope had become a kind of torture.
Four days later, he went to a concert. I was there. He asked to buy me a beer. He seemed young, a little lonely. He took evident delight in me, asked twice when we could meet up. Maybe those girls weren't dumb so much as conditioned to prize false indifference. On our date a week later, we talked for five hours over dinner—about music, lapsed faith, bourbon, books. "Do you want to hear my Allen Ginsberg story?" Kevin asked brightly. Once, he'd seen him on the street. Wow, he thought, a literary legend. Then he Googled: Ginsberg had been dead for ten years. "It was just a guy with a beard," he said. I laughed for a solid minute.
We went to the park and sat beneath a 69-foot obelisk. "We are totally doing this again," Kevin said. I'd already loved him for like an hour. I flung his arm around me, deranged by my luck. He walked home with headphones on, grinning to Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly." Weeks later, he gave me a nickname: Girlf. Someday I'll be his Wirlf.
The reasons why some of us get snapped up and others don't are too mysterious to untangle. Or maybe they aren't, and it's just that we're repeatedly in the wrong place and time, and we miss love like we miss a train.
The other night Kevin put on The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's documentary of the Band's final show. We draped ourselves over our couch. The TV was a parade of legends: Joni, Muddy, Van, Neil, Bob. Kevin turned and said, his voice small with wonder, "You really love me."
Everyone he knows has told me, "He waited so long for you." I try, every day, to be worth the wait.