Me. Circa 2003.
In the throws of dating in my 20s.
Having had a mild holiday season, last week we finally got that bone-chilling, stay-at-home, gloom and doom January that sweeps through town every year. While it is nothing compared to what the east coast got this past weekend (I hope everyone stayed safe and warm indoors), with the exception of today, which is mild and sunny, it's been, well, January in Paris.
Yesterday, to beat the Sunday early evening blues (that I honestly thought would dissipate after high school), the three of us decided to go to our favorite local café for a drink.
Because it was around 5 o'clock on a Sunday, the place was empty with the exception of a couple sitting at a corner booth drinking tea. We chose a table at a respectful distance from them, only to be told by the server that they had reservations coming, and was asked to sit at the table right next to the couple.
I usually don't love practically sitting on top of the only other patrons in a restaurant, especially these small Parisian cafés, but in this particular case, I felt bad for them, a young couple in their 20s. I imagined they didn't want a baby sitting right next to them, but they seemed super engaged in their conversation that thankfully they didn't to notice.
Upon minutes of sitting in the empty and not to mention silent café waiting for the menu, it took all of 30 seconds for us to realize that the couple who were so engrossed in their conversation next to us, next to us as in we shared the banquette, next to us as in my arm was rubbing against the guy's bag, was in the process of breaking up.
Not awkward or anything.
As we sat there, the tension and hushed drama as the girl plead and negotiated in a frantic loud whisper for the guy to stay with her was just painful, as Aurel and I scrambled for small talk to mask the heartbreak that was taking place a mere foot away. At one point I heard her complain that he hasn't "liked" her photos in over a week, and then my heart really broke for her. For both of them actually. Dating in your 20s is already tough. Dating in the heightened age of social media sounds like it must be a nightmare. It is already rife with uncertainty and insecurity, but now you have to worry about "likes." Oy vey. These poor kids.
While it's been years since I've had one of those heart-wrenching breakup talks where the conversation just goes around in circles, I certainly have not forgotten them. We all have a file stored in our memory comprised of all of those breakups and people we've dated, where you just shake your head wondering why. Why was it such a big deal? Why the drama? Because it is a big deal at the time and I understood the pain this girl was feeling right then and there. Being married with a baby certaintly doesn't erase the memories of what I remember to be one of the most confusing times of my life. The pure torture of wanting to work it out with someone who you know in your heart isn't the right one for you while being all dramatic in the corner listening to Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart," sadly made up certain parts of my 20s. (I'm pretty sure I was humming that song in the above picture. I recall not being thrilled on that gorgeous evening on an L.A. rootop bar over ten years ago.) Maybe it's a rite of passage before entering your 30s, and by law of maturity, that you have to have at least one of those really fucked up relationships, sometimes with such an awful person, that when you meet the right one, you cherish them like the preciousness that they are.
I wanted to scooch closer to the girl and say, "Hi there, you don't know me but I'm you in like, five, maybe ten years. Trust me when I say you will one day look back at this moment and feel empowered that you got through it, and maybe just maybe you will even be friends with this guy. You will bounce back from this." But as her tears dripped into her cold cup of tea as she was getting dumped on a Sunday evening (talk about Sunday night blues...shit), asking the guy on repeat why it wouldn't work out between them, I could see she was lightyears from this reasoning and probably wouldn't want to hear from some exhausted-looking lady who was wearing her baby that t'inquiète, ça va s'arranger!
As their breakup continued to fill the room, Aurel and I quietly looked back at some of the past relationships we've had that resulted in one of these talks, nodding in recognition the exhaustion of it all. When our drinks finally came, before we took our first sip, we acknowledged our baby who began to squirm around in his sleep, oblivious to the life and experiences he will one day have to trudge through, and smiled with relief that those crappy relationships that you emotionally wear like a battle scar are long behind us. If it weren't for those tests in life, we may have never met, and if we never met we certainly wouldn't have met our baby Michaud. So with that, we clinked our glasses to being a little older, a little more seasoned and for having graduated dating in our 20s. Thankful for being able to look at it from both sides, now.