I’m always a bit wistful at the beginning of March; my Thomas was born in March, right at the cusp of spring. Thomas was a kid in a candy store about his birthday and we would begin planning as soon as February gave up her reluctant, icy hold. He was only 5 years my senior, which was as close to contemporaries as I have ever come in a relationship. We met when he stumbled over my feet in the park. I was picnicking with another suitor and Thomas was on his way to class with his nose in a book. He sought me out later, in order to thank me because “staring into my sparkling eyes gave (him) enough luck to pass his exam that day.” Of course it was a catchpenny line but the man tracked down a groundskeeper, my suitor’s proctor and the mailman to find me, I owed him something. We met and married in rapid succession. I was 17 and still a virgin; no, I can’t believe it myself. Thomas and I honeymooned at his parent’s lake house in Michigan. We spent every night wrapped in blankets, warmed by having just made love and confessed our dreams to each other. We spoke of mistakes our families made and mysteries we hoped to solve. We discussed the practical – like law school for him and the impractical – like children for me.
My first years as a young bride were idyllic. Father had purchased us a chipper 2-bedroom flat right off campus as a settling in gift. We called it “tiny” and referred to those days as “roughing it in New Haven” after we’d moved to New York. We thought small flats and having no means in our salad days sounded more romantic than two trust fund babies born with silver spoons in their mouths. Everything about Thomas was romantic. We might be strolling on the sidewalk en route to a party when he would find the need to wax poetic about a garden in bloom or the evening’s starry sky. He was everything I had read about in my fanciful stories growing up and I utterly adored him. I even pretended I could be the perfect wife for a spell. I cooked meals and tidied our space… and then left for a bit so the maid Mother hired to look after us could replace the disaster in the oven with something edible and run a feather duster throughout the joint.
After Thomas passed the bar, we moved into a nice neighborhood in Manhattan. My parents wanted us closer to them upstate but Thomas wanted to feel the pulse of the city. His enthusiasm for soaking in the vibrancy of the world around him was intoxicating. I learned to drink life in through Thomas, not simply nibble it around the edges.
(My lord, the ways in which Romeo reminds me of Thomas are myriad. Our first night together, Romeo excitedly recounted a short story he had just read with the enthusiasm of a boy who has just taken his opponent’s Aggie. I reeled in the moment, believing I was listening to Thomas all over again.)
When the police officer rang my bell that cold November day, my heart broke in a way I didn’t know it could. I remember hearing the words that Thomas was dead and thanking the officer for his time. I was alone, our housekeeper shopping for our weekly fare. I floated to the sitting room, dreamlike, taking my usual chair and remaining static for some time. A tear formed in my eye but refused to fall. I clasped my hands tightly, not allowing myself to think; I simply stayed as still as I could be. Eventually, I looked to the door and willed Thomas to walk through it; I had gotten everything I had ever wanted in life, I was sure I could get this too. I glared at the door, getting angry at Thomas’ stubbornness. My nails dug into my skin until small droplets of blood came to the surface and still I stared down the defiant door that refused to open to Thomas and the life I didn’t want to disappear. I had convinced myself I had done it when I saw the knob turn. I threw out the laws of nature, as surely they are impervious to the will of Naomi Davenport, and smiled mutinously, thinking about apology that nasty door owed me. When our housekeeper passed through the instead, the weight of the truth crashed down around me; I had been beat. Opening that door she allowed in all the horror of reality – a reality in which my Thomas was gone.
I keened well into the night. My parents made haste getting to me, seeing to all the formalities that should be seen to. Neighbors and friends paid their respects, my mother reminding me to fix my lipstick with each condolence call. I was at the age Thomas had been when we met – a lifetime ago.
His parents travelled to New York for the funeral and I returned to Michigan to bury him as he requested. I still own the Lake House that his parents graciously kept for Thomas in their will. I venture there from time to time; wrap myself in a blanket in front of the fire and tell my dreams to Thomas.
I have no idea what would have become of us if he had not spotted that hat in the shop window. Yes, that’s what his partner Stephen Gainsborough told me. After a quick drink post work, they were safely across the street when a clever little chapeau caught Thomas’ eye and he dashed back to get a better look. Everyone says he must have not seen the streetcar coming his way but I don’t doubt for a minute he merely thought himself invulnerable to anything practical. That was Thomas for you; his whim put above all else. Would we still be mad about each other in the end? I’m not sure; we were not the most evolved people. Thomas always argued that women should be put on a pedestal but deep down I knew it was so they would stay out of men’s way. Neither of us wanted children and eventually we would have had them, pressures of lineage coming from both sides. I am not sure our marriage would have survived a child; the two of us spoiled children ourselves. Anything that caught Thomas’ fancy received his full attention; it was only a matter of time before his fancy would have a button nose and be set up in a pied-à-terre on West 31st. I can’t imagine Thomas remaining a one-woman man – heavens, he couldn’t be contained to a single Club Chair. Had life remained on course, not veered quickly in the direction of a grey Derby, I might be writing to you of the cad who stepped on my heart or spent our money buying one more round for the house. But I am not. Oddly, that damned streetcar did me a favor; it allowed me to forever hold a portrait of my Thomas – my romantic, loving partner – as pristine as the day he scrambled for an apology for scuffing my buff-colored Cromwells, becoming smitten on impact. That is whom I married – Thomas, a ray of golden sunshine forever burning in my heart.
I think I shall give Romeo a call; I suddenly yearn for the sound of his voice.
My point is, darlings, perfection is in the mind of the nostalgic.