Tuesday, January 31, 2006

'Paris' Part I: The Day of My Life

Adam Gopnik has me falling in love all over again.

I’ve been reading his collection of essays, “Paris to the Moon” and dog-eared his discussion of “the day of our life.” These are the pleasures and duties we string together into routine; out of this repetition, we build our lives. I think of the lunches I pack Dave every morning before he leaves for work, the way he whistles for me every evening when he comes home. The hot cocoa I drink at night while I curl up with a “Sex in the City” rerun, as Dave battles the Nazis on his computer game in another room. On Saturdays, he mops the kitchen tile, I Swiffer the hardwood. And suddenly these don't seem like habit--they're Our Life.

Gopnik’s “day of our life” calls to mind a Japanese film that played the art house circuit several years ago. What if when we die, the movie suggested, we get to choose our own version of heaven, in the form of the moment we’d like to have repeated for all eternity.

I would pick “Sushi Night,” the exceptional evening that became the day of my life.


The phone rang. I’m not sure who answered, but it was for me. My friend Matt was on the other end, asking if I’d like to go out for sushi.

I hated sushi, but it was the night after Christmas. Unless you’re five and have new toys to play with, December 26 is the saddest day of the year. I was home in Ohio for the holidays, staying with my parents through New Year’s. We’d already finished a spaghetti with Ragu dinner—the dishes were washed and put away and it was barely after 6 p.m. I could hear the minute hand of the clock ticking down the moments of boredom until bedtime.

I asked Matt, “Who’s going?”

“Me and Tracy, my friend Joe and you remember his friend Dave.”

I had bumped into Dave three times over the past three years. This dark-haired, green-eyed boy had made an impression. Yes, I would definitely come along.

Matt and Tracy picked me up. Joe and Dave beat us to the restaurant. They sat across from each other at a table for five in the back corner of the room. Dave faced the door. He wore a pale yellow shirt and jeans and had traded in his contacts for glasses. The chair next to him was empty. He was waiting for me.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. There was a coffeehouse after dinner. I ordered a steamed milk. Dave was opposite and Joe on my left, a gnat buzzing in my ear. I wanted him, and everyone else who wasn’t Dave, to disappear.

Joe left and Dave stayed. Later, the four remnants of our party piled into Matt’s Jeep, driving around in circles while Matt searched in vain for a particularly spectacular display of Christmas lights he was certain he’d seen before. I don’t recall a word that passed between Dave and I, only that we were there together.

We all went back to Dave's place and lingered for awhile. Matt and Tracy were in the living room. I was coming out of the bathroom, he was in the kitchen. Somewhere in the hallway I asked, “Would you like to go out sometime?” He always claims he was about to blurt the very same thing, but we’ll never know.


We forget, sometimes, that Sushi Night wasn’t our first date. That came two days later. But it was the official beginning of Us.


We’ve been back to Kotobuki just once, with Dave’s sister, for lunch. I scarcely recognized the place. The door was on the left, not the right. There was no open kitchen, and it certainly wasn’t situated behind “our” table. Most jarring were the colors—dark reds and greens, where I had pictured everything bathed in golden light.

I was glad.

There was no chance of my ever confusing the two events, so dissimilar was the experience. I could preserve my memory of that December evening whole and intact, and if the images I conjured up were more like a dream than reality, well isn’t that what happens at the moment when two people fall in love.


Matt and Tracy pick me up.

Joe and Dave beat us to the restaurant.

They sit across from each other at a table for five in the back corner of the room.

Dave faces the door.

He is wearing a pale yellow shirt and jeans, contacts instead of glasses.

The chair next to him is empty.

He is waiting for me.


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