I’ve got a pot of crab boil coming to a simmer on the stove, ready for three pounds of snow crab legs that we will steam, crack and disassemble like scavenging animals, and then roughly chop the sweet meat and fold it together with mayonnaise, minced dill, chives and lemon juice. We will toast buttered potato rolls and pile them high with crab salad and feast fearlessly. I already made a red cabbage slaw with cider vinaigrette and a slender orange slices; it’s chilling while the flavors meld and the crunchiness of the cabbage softens. It’s getting dark so early these days. I’m playing my Spotify time capsule, an algorithm-engineered playlist of mostly 90s tunes, and it’s pretty spot on. Candlebox, Bell Biv Devoe, Bangles, each new song brings a smile with the simple pleasure of recognition and nostalgia.
And then, out of nowhere, the opening guitar notes and shuffling drumbeat of I Stay Away by Alice In Chains seize me in a grip of breathtaking momentary clarity. How corny can I be? I am suddenly so clearly in my teenage angsty mind of the first days I would have heard that song, seventeen and such a fool. For just a moment, I am overtaken with the wish to be able to show that girl this moment, the unthinkable peace and gratitude of domestic middle-age. I want to hold that girl’s face to the glass of 26 years and gift her with the vision of the future and whisper reassurances that it will all turn out better than she could ever hope.
A corny half-forgotten grunge song drops me in the brain of that girl and I know that she could never have imagined this life. My breath leaves me as I see, through overlapping lenses of naïveté and experience, how easy it would have been for me to never end up here. How close I came, over and over, to settling for something else, how effortless it would have been for me to have accepted a reality that would have led me down a path of discontent or misery or just otherness. How many men I almost attached myself to who would never (never, not for a minute) have brought me a moment of the joy and ease that I have with Austin. I may have been prettier back then, and definitely skinnier, but I wouldn’t trade an hour with seventeen-year-old me. Our house is never very clean, and our cats never let us sleep in, and I haven’t seen my coworkers in person in half a year. Even in the midst of pandemic, even trapped across the country from my family in a red state teeming with conflict and ignorance, even as winter looms with no end to the chaos of America and the planet earth at the dawn of a new decade, I am so grateful.
Dear Delaney of 1994: You won’t recognize a single thing about your future, especially yourself, but I promise, I promise, you’re gonna love it.