So what do you think?
It's beautiful! Who does it belong to?
You're joking, right?
No, I bought it. Because you made fun of my tiny apartment.
Oh my god. Seriously, Jacob.
I am serious, Bridget.
Wow. Then you did really well. I didn't think you had any money.
Well I don't anymore.
I was standing on the polished wood floor of a living room that had a wall that was all windows. The windows overlooked the ocean, straight out, facing east so there was no land as far as your eyes could see on the horizon. It wasn't a huge house, two tiny bedrooms, a bathroom and a great room that was a kitchen with a breakfast bar and the huge living room. He paid for the view and the beachfrontage, I think and the fact that it had a roof was just the icing on the cake.
We had an awkward, tension-filled dinner one night. Back in 1999 once the shock of death wore off and my pregnancy advanced and we settled in as fledgling best friends, Jacob knew I spent my nights alone and he invited me to dinner, he said he wanted to cook for me.
Jacob is not a legendary chef by any means, but I relished his company and so I agreed and he offered to pick me up from work and bring me over to his apartment for dinner and then drive me home afterward.
At 5 pm I left work and he was there. Standing by the door with his truck parked a bit of the way up the hill. He took my bag and extended his arm and we walked to the truck. He opened the door for me and made nice small talk on the way back out of the city.
He reminded me where he lived and mentioned he was looking for a house closer to the south shore, maybe on the water, because he grew up on the water in Newfoundland.
I smiled and told him I loved the beach. I lived for the beach, for the ocean. It was my comfort.
Surprisingly it turned out that he lived about 10 minutes past where I did, along the harbour. I was on his way back and forth to the university.
He introduced me to his tiny apartment, cluttered with stacks of books and CDs. He owned a desk, a table, a bed and a stereo, wedged into two tiny rooms with a bathroom and a kitchen somehow built out of no space at all. When he was standing there was no room for me to stand beside him. He hung up my coat and put the satchel by the door and pulled a chair out from the table for me.
He smiled and asked if I was thirsty. I said I was and he pulled a pitcher of lemonade from the fridge. The pitcher still had the sticker on the outside and I could see his hands shaking as he poured.
Why are you nervous?
You're positively quivering.
Been a while since I had a da-friend over for a meal.
Tell me about things, Bridget.
Okay. My new friend is weirdly nervous around me and he shouldn't be, because I'm having a nice time.
Aw, geez, Bridge. Tell me how you really feel.
Are you psychoanalyzing me?
No, are you?
Of course not. My expertise is in financial affairs.
Maybe I should let you do my taxes.
I'd be happy to.
Would you like to help with dinner? I could use a pot-stirrer.
Oh, I've been called that before, let me get it.
He started cracking jokes while he sawed up the bread to butter it and I dutifully stirred pots of pasta and sauce. I laughed, I was wide awake, I wasn't mourning anymore, he was like a breath of fresh air. There was barely room for both of us to stand and yet we did, and we ignored the overwhelming tension between us, a connection I still can't adequately describe. Every time my hand moved to the left I would bump elbows with him. When he laughed I could feel his breath on my hair. It sent shivers right through me.
We ate slowly and talked for hours. Before I knew it I was almost falling asleep on my plate and Jacob smiled and suggested we call it a night. We both stood up and cracked heads. I winced. He asked me if I was okay and then he rubbed my head and stopped cold, as if we both realized at once that it was not right to be so close and yet we were, albeit with hesitation.
You're a big guy, you need a bigger place.
That's why I invited you over now, before your belly starts to get in our way.
Oh, so it's me.
No, I'm teasing, Bridge.
So why did you really invite me over?
I hate to eat alone.
And because you eat alone.
That's life. Sometimes couples work opposite hours.
He handed me my coat and helped me into it and I stuck my arm through the sleeve and accidentally punched him square in the chest. He laughed.
Maybe you should come to my place for dinner next time.
No, I don't think Cole would want that.
Well, this room is going to be too tiny soon. I can't fasten my skirts anymore.
How do you keep them up?
I have hips now.
So I need a bigger place if I want to keep having dinner with you?
Yeah, I think so.
Then maybe I'll find something you might like, right on the beach if that's what you like most.
I thought he was kidding, to humor me. We didn't say much on the drive back to the apartment I shared with Cole. I felt a little strange about his intensity and I think he realized it had become a bit awkward. When he walked me to my door he said that maybe sometime we could do it again, and he kissed my hand and squeezed it and then left when I went inside. I was aware that he had backed off significantly from when we were at his place but I was slightly relieved because when he gets intense I always felt like I was unable to control my attraction to him.
I knew I was falling. Falling hard.
We chatted superficially on the phone a few times a week and met for coffee each Friday for the next two months and then one evening he called and asked me if I wanted to go for a drive. I did, and so he picked me up and we drove for 30 minutes down the shore to this beautiful house.
I still couldn't believe he now owned this view.
So, do you want to go down and see my beach?
Sure, let's go.
He took my hand and I followed him down the steps off the deck and onto the sand. There were torches lit and stuck in the sand and a blanket spread on the sand with a picnic basket. A radio playing songs I don't even remember now, and how often does that ever happen?
He looked at me in the twilight and asked me if this was enough room for us to have dinner.
He made peanut butter and jelly. He said because it keeps well and he needed something that did for his surprise. And lemonade in bottles because he said he knew I liked it last time. And it seemed like that moment when we both acknowledged the intensity of our friendship and gave up trying to fight it everything changed again and the electricity that had charged the air before quieted down just enough so that we found a comfortable place somewhere past best friends and on to surrogate spouses, permanent company, sought comfort.
It still remains the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ever had. He maintains the best part was the tiny bit of peanut butter he kissed off the corner of my mouth before we left to drive back to the city.
Sometimes I miss that house, sometimes he does too, but he said it was infused with a frustration after I would leave that made him grow to resent it and so it becomes just another part of our forbidden history and that's why he bought the cottage instead. So we could have our view back, and our beach picnics back, with no painful memories stuck in the sand like torches on a warm spring evening.