Summer ended in a day.
One day I was ogling the shirtless men jogging sweat drenched in the park, the next I was kicking through fat, orange leaves. All the blues turned to gray and the air grew cold.
In the summer I celebrated my 42nd birthday alone in an afterthought cafe. Friends had made lukewarm suggestions to hangout, all easily averted. My perennial desire for a happy birthday blow-job went unrequited.
My fling with A was unsurprisingly short-lived. A week of increasingly flirty texting led up to an evening of kink that somehow managed to strike a balance between sweetness and filth. He in a leather harness and me in a chastity device.
Later, standing naked at his window, looking out over China Town, he came out of the bathroom and remarked on the view.
Another week of decreasingly flirty texts followed by an awkward walk through the throngs at Pride. His hand kept reaching for mine, and my hand kept pulling away. He seemed to know every tall, beautiful man there, and the only people I recognized were the people I wanted to avoid. We ran into his friends and were unable to extricate ourselves from them. A quartet of Millennials all determined to be more minutely unlabeled than the next.
If you ever want to feel old, go day-drinking with a group of 20somethings.
Every time they spoke, all I could see were a school of toddlers with pacifiers in their mouths. They were all still idealistic, pretty and perfectly diverse, uniform in their smooth, unwrinkled skin. Even though they were all significantly nicer than me, I disliked them all both individually and collectively. Impossible not to feel like a cynical, withered gnome, alarmingly out of place among them.
After drinking all day and standing in the sun, A got sick and went home. I walked him to the street car, and walked back to my apartment distilled with the prescience that our romance was over.
There were other men as the summer bore on. A string of happy hour dates where the line between desire and desperation was rimmed in the salt of Margarita glasses. Nice men with 401(k)s and Mexican vacations. But none of them thrilled me.
I am concerned that I’ve become incapable of being thrilled.
A bleak future where my corpse is devoured by a dozen angry cats in a dingy, studio apartment stinking of urine seems increasingly likely.
My mother calls to tell me that she and my aunt toured the nursing home that they intend to deposit my grandmother in. She’s become more and more unmanageable for my mother and her sisters to take care of on their own.
“I hope you got a good look around, because you’ll probably end up there.” I tell her.
“I will kill myself before I get like that,” she says. Then we have an actual discussion about the best ways for her to kill herself when the time comes.
“I can’t shoot myself or cut myself,” she says. “It’ll have to be pills.”
“But pills are so unreliable,” I say.
“Not if you take enough of them.” She says.
The day they put my grandmother in the home, she calls me crying.
“I know you feel guilty,” I say. “But it’s for the best.”
Her very first day there, the nursing home calls my mother to tell her that my grandmother had a fall from her wheelchair. They are legally obligated to inform her. This does not instill any confidence in my mother.
“They aren’t watching her.” She says. “They aren’t feeding her the food she likes.”
Less than a week later my grandmother is back home. My mom and my aunts are back to watching her in shifts. To bathing her, changing her, doling out her medications. Some days she sits catatonic in her wheelchair and others she is lively, chattering away and seems almost like her old self. Some days she curses at my mother and aunts as they try to change her clothes. Other days she’s docile.
For her 93rd birthday she eats ice cream. Melting and sticky in a hot, Texas August. Back porch flies and hotdog buns. My grandmother, the forgetful matriarch. Mother of eleven children, and an uncounted number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Widow. The sweet and simple maker of banana pudding, has become purse lipped and confused.
“Who’s going to take me home?” She asks.
“You are home, mama.” My mother says.
On her 67th birthday, my mother vows that she isn’t getting older. “I can handle being in my 60s,” she says, “But I absolutely cannot fathom being 70. I’m staying 67 forever.” I agree with this plan.
In lieu of a romantic life, I workout obsessively.
“I can’t get over how buff you are,” my friend Matt comments one day when I run into him on the way home from the grocery store.
I casually flex. We talk about our jobs. His writing gig. My promotion. The novel I still sometimes pretend to be writing. I agree to watch their cats when he and his boyfriend (also Matt) spend a week in Hawaii.
Instead of dating, I spend evenings with friends. Movie nights with tator-tot casseroles and le boisson de le maison. Game nights around comfort food tables with obscene Pictionary and rated R card games. Dinners and brunches where the conversation turns to politics, and I absently check my phone to see if anyone has messaged me who I could possibly be thrilled by.
After months of no contact, I begin to play Dungeons & Dragons with a queer group with none other than A acting as Dungeon Master. It’s a warm, fun group. Hot tea and snacks. The rolling of dice. Although I’d initially hoped that the group would be a conduit for romance, it ends up being something else entirely. A nice excursion.
One day C calls crying. He’s broken up with his new boyfriend. It feels very strange to comfort a man that I spent over 7 years with, moved to different states with, tried to build a life with, as he is heartbroken by someone else. But, despite everything, he is still my best friend and I want him to be happy. So I become his long-distance confidant.
The days grow darker earlier.
I spend evenings listening to rain hit the fiberglass roof of the car port, curled up in a red, patchwork quilt that my grandmother made when she was around my age. I sip hot chocolate and watch movies or play video games. But there is the undeniable sense that all of these things could be improved with the addition of a co-conspirator. Some funny, sexy misanthrope to grow old with, to shake our bony fists at children traipsing across our imagined lawn.
Fall is my favorite season because I love weather, and sweaters, and striped scarves, and coffee cups, and pumpkins, and the changing colors, scary movies. Because in every coffeehouse, around every corner, buried in piles of leaves, and dripping off of rain drenched awnings there is this bristling energy, the possibility of romance. Not even just a possibility, a meaty, muscular thing that for a season seems not just potential, but inevitable.