I can’t feel my toes, but this is the first time in months that I have sincerely laughed out loud. It’s January, and I am currently treading water in the San Francisco Bay, staring up at my boyfriend of three years, Joel, waiting for him to follow suit and plunge into the icy emerald waters lapping against my shoulders.
Jump back twenty minutes. We’re having dinner at Girogini’s, a sleepy Italian place next to the bay. Fake candles flicker in frosted cylinders, and the clatter and chatter of the semi-busy restaurant melds with the ambient music.
“Let’s do something,” I said, twirling a wad of spaghetti around my fork. “What do you mean? We are doing something. We’re doing something right now,” said Joel, staring at his lasagna.
“I know. I just mean, like. Can’t we ever mix it up? This is the third time we’ve been here this month.” I rolled my eyes and sighed, trying to get some sort of reaction.
“We decided on this restaurant because it’s always good. You always know what you’re getting.” Joel said evenly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He finally looked up, staring straight into my eyes, the way he always does. Always expecting something, always ready to tear down anything that he hadn’t already thought of.
I sighed. “Do I really have to say it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Every syllable was measured.
I let the heavy cloth napkin flutter to my lap. “We’re stuck.” I looked down. “We do the same boring things over and over.” Glanced up. “Nothing’s exciting anymore.” Down again.
He finally took a deep breath and put down his fork. “I suppose I could see how you think that. But, Jamie, you have to understand that this is what happens with time. You know as well as I do that it’s been three years, and settling down into a routine is inevitable.”
“But I don’t want a routine. I don’t want to be that boring old couple already. I’m twenty-seven for God’s sake. What happened to going to random bars and concerts and wandering around the city at 2 AM? Don’t you remember that time we ended up at that great little coffee shop on Valencia street and-”
He cut me off. “You know what? Those times are over. I don’t want to wander around in the dark and stumble into shitty cafes. We’re not reckless teenagers anymore. We’re adults, Jamie. Why don’t you start acting like one.”
He picked up his fork again as if the conversation was over. My insides were burning like there were a thousand tiny embers in my chest rocketing up towards my throat. I took a sharp breath in and stared out the window, trying to collect my thoughts into a succinct sentence. That’s when I got the idea.
I stood up, clicked open my wallet, and dropped two twenty dollar bills on the table. I smoothed down my hair and strode out of the restaurant and towards the docks.
“What the- where are you going?” Joel called after me.
“Why don’t you find out.” I said evenly, staring straight ahead and keeping up my pace. I reached the end of the nearest dock and stared into the swirling water twenty feet below.
Wind swept my hair away from my face as I clutched the cold metal railing. “What the hell is this?” Joel stood a few feet behind me.
“Jump in with me,” I said as I faced him, a hopeful half-smile spreading across my face.
“Are you crazy? It’s freezing. It must be 50 degrees out.”
“Yeah, it is crazy.” I grinned. For a split second, I saw a glimmer of the person Joel used to be flash across his glassy brown eyes. He opened his mouth. And then it was gone. His brow furrowed, and then his expression softened.
“Come on, Jamie. Let’s just go home. We can watch Netflix and forget about this night.” I turned around to face the water and I felt his hand on the small of my back. He held me there for a second, and I leaned into him. But I caught myself. I remembered how he spit those harsh words at me no more than five minutes ago. The fragments of ‘Grow up, Jamie,’ sat in my gut, stabbing into me with every breath. I turned around into him.
“Either you’re all in, or you’re all out,” I said in one measured breath. And I jumped.
I am currently treading water in the San Francisco Bay, staring up at Joel, waiting for him to follow suit and plunge into the icy emerald waters lapping against my shoulders. “What’s it gonna be?” I yell up to him. He just shook his head, like he was disappointed in me.
“You’ll never learn, will you,” he said, and slowly walked down the dock. I watched him button up his coat and stick his hands into his pockets.
I smiled to myself and wrapped my arms around my body as I realized that I had floated to an area where it was shallow enough to stand. On my tippy-toes in the San Francisco Bay in January, I realized that it’s not really even that cold down here.