He texted me before I arrived home, asking to see me again.
For our second date, he planned a picnic in Portland’s Mount Tabor Park. He sent a map in advance with a dropped pin of where to park. Later, I realized that almost everything he did was premeditated, combed over with scrutiny to ensure a smooth flow. Even in spontaneity, he didn’t leave things to chance.
We walked up the path to the reservoir. He had packed wine, bread, olives, cheese and fig spread in metal tins. I had merely brought chocolates, which melted in my tote bag before we had the chance to eat them. We sat on a slope surrounded by young couples as the sun set.
He told me a story about a patient of his in his late 70s with terminal cancer who had chosen death with dignity. The man had thrown a party, invited everyone he loved, and then lay down to die in the guest bedroom.
My eyes clouded with tears I masked by drinking another sip of wine.
This was before he knew how my husband died. He had chosen his own death as well, ending his life on a similar summer day, taking us all completely by surprise. In one irrevocable moment, life as I knew it was turned upside down, leaving me to parent an infant and toddler alone.
Two years later, I was tentatively venturing back into the world of dating. I couldn’t yet imagine the daily rhythms of life with another, but I longed for companionship and desire. I wanted to immerse myself in the beauty of the world, craving reminders that I was alive even if the life I once knew was over.
The sun slipped below the horizon as I thought about death and the choice to live.
Shortly thereafter, we began a Sunday evening ritual of meeting at various hotels downtown. With my children at home with the au pair, and his adolescent daughter a permanent fixture at his rental apartment, we had nowhere private to go. The thought of our rendezvous sustained me during my long, hectic days. They were the sole time set aside for just me, and I fantasized about them all week.