A Letter to Kate About a Brown Mat and Green Pine Needles

Dear Kate,


I remember exactly where I was when I found out that gay marriage had been legalized; coincidentally, it is the exact seat at the kitchen table that I find myself at right now, writing the first draft of this letter to you.  There are a million words that I have said to you since the bitter and hazy December night in Davis Square when we first shook hands, and a million more words that have remained as thoughts in the days and years since. Some things are best said in writing, so I’m going to do my best.


Hardly a morning out of the past 613 in this apartment has passed without my taking the corner between the dresser and the foot of the bed too sharply, turning sideways just to squeeze through, and bruising my left knee in the process. I guess that’s what I get for being stubborn about keeping my side of the bed.


Hardly a night out of the past 614 in this apartment has passed without your taking the glasses off of my face and closing my New Yorker or book onto the cracked and permanently dusty window ledge. I always act vaguely bothered that the movements of your settling into the night rouse me from my premature sleep. I am never actually bothered.


My favorite things to write about–and, admittedly, think about–are the ordinaries whose existence I have come to associate with you. When I say I like to write, what I am saying is I like the moments where beauty is drawn from commonplace, and exception from that which is easy to overlook. Like the brown mat in our kitchen that still collects green Christmas tree needles in late February. I’m not exactly sure where the needles come from, but on the days between a vacuum, they materialize en masse on the mat, as if by magic, reminding us that what we believe to be long gone remains when we decide to look for it.


In the mornings since the election, I have awoken next to you with a pit in my stomach, thinking more frequently about the concept of “us” than mornings prior. My waking hours have been defined by a visceral need to reconfigure my understanding of our place in this country, and what fierce, resistant love looks like with each step, and each day forward. Each dawn I have awoken, knowing our collective life will likely always be politicized, but terrified that during the next four years the dust will settle, normalization will take hold, and we will find ourselves in dusty clothes in the middle of the road. Alone.


This feeling–of not knowing what comes next, and not being able to grasp onto an understanding of what is actually in our control–forces me to reckon with what is in our grasp. Those things are harder to find, because they lie, available and ordinary–in the shadow of routine. The challenge is in learning how to see them.


I will not always have this seat at the kitchen table. We will not always have the joy of the summer of 2015. Our furniture may not always fit our apartments. And there may be pine needles on our carpets. But I am coming to believe that the most radical response in this time is to find and love the exceptional ordinariness of our lives. I like our oversized furniture. And I laugh at my consistently bruised knee. On the mornings where green needles benevolently collect on the brown kitchen mat, I see what I have always seen in us, and what I hope I never stop seeing: there can still be green in cold weather, when we decide to look for it.


I love you,



Photo courtesy of Epochend, Flickr Creative Commons.


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