It was a Wednesday and I was feeling like the world had ended. The network I had struggled to create had collapsed into a pathetic bankruptcy two days prior. It was a job in which I thrived creatively and financially. It was gone and here I was, helplessly turning another year older. I had seen its demise a month before it happened and had been sunk into a deep funk.
"It's okay, honey bunny, we'll make it. We always do!" his voice was upbeat but I didn't hear it.
"Teamwork!" His enthusiasm now made me smile. We always used that word when we found ourselves in rough patches or managed to overcome whatever difficulty we faced. Teamwork. It is also a word now found engraved on his memorial bench under his tree near his headstone.
That night Billy refused to allow my sour mood. He had planned a dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant. Just the two of us as if he knew the weight of making happy in front of a collective of friends was too much for me to bear. And he hated sushi. He always made that face like he just smelled something bad.
We went out to his brand new car and I climbed in the passenger seat. He said, "Wait! I forgot something," and ran back into the house. A good five minutes later, he came back. I was tapping my fingers with as much irritation as I could possibly show.
But we went and I gorged myself on spicy tuna while he ate his teriyaki chicken platter. He had alerted the staff it was my birthday and after our meal, a collection of barely speaking Japanese came to our table and tried their best to sing the simple song. They presented one of those sparkling bottle rocket candles on a small piece of cake. I wanly smiled and blew it out.
When we arrived back home, he ran ahead and opened the door for me. I walked in and found the living room lit with twenty or more candles flickering light over Bob and the walls. In front of me was my birthday walk - his presents to me arranged in the proper order of their opening.
First the card. It was a picture of a beach sunset and inside he wrote:
You are my Honey Bunny
That's something you'll always be
No matter what happens next
It will always be you and me.
I remember thinking how wonderfully simple Billy could be. I remember feeling relief we had gotten over the difficult hump of a few years ago. I remember thinking I was a lucky man in spite of the network shutting down.
I opened the first package and it was a cool pair of solid gray Phat Farm boxers. Next up was a mix CD he made of Springsteen songs with a hand painted cover. A big package revealed an oil painting of Venice, Italy that I immediately hung in the living room. Last up was a small box. I tore into it and found the watch I loved that had long been broken.
Russell had given me a dive watch many years ago when he bought me diving lessons. I loved the watch but the band had broken a few years ago. Billy had taken it to a jeweler and had it repaired. His thoughtfulness made me puddle up and we hugged.
He took my hand and led me into the bedroom where there were even more candles lit. He put on Julee Cruise's first CD, a slow romantic meditation, and we laid in bed and talked. We looked at each other. From the very beginning of meeting Billy, he had the ability to look into my eyes and not break focus. He taught me to look back. After we made love, we snuggled, watched TV and fell asleep.
It was a good birthday and for a few hours, I forgot about career and what the next step would be. Because during those few hours, it was about teamwork.
For the last fifteen months, I have lived a reluctant life. It is not the one I wanted. It isn't even close. Have I learned something in the process? Have a gained because of it? Yes. But the scale is so incredibly unbalanced and I would happily trade in all of this new information for just a moment of what I once had. Just one single minute with him.
I have renewed passion in writing thanks to some encouraging words. I have a gestating spirituality. I have learned to cope no matter what. I have laughed. I have become expert at crying while driving. I have made a few new friends. I have nurtured those I love more than ever. I have learned to take nothing for granted. I have learned to understand there is no such thing as safety.
It is with reluctance I wake every day but it is also my job to make the day the best it can be.