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She and I have been meeting for drinks in dimly lit bars. We’ve been laughing and crying sweet tears of mutual compassion. 

Before heading to meet her I try not to care if she thinks I look pretty, but my God I do. 

We’re sitting at one of our old favorite spots, just a few blocks from the loft we lived in when we first moved here, when we were happy as ever.

She tells me she’s been writing hand-off letters for her staff before she leaves to start her new job.

She smiles and her brown eyes flicker in the candlelight and she says, “I wish I could write one for you, so that the next person treats you right.”

I smile, I look down at my beer, then back up at her, “What would it say?”

She doesn’t hesitate.

“It would say…don’t ever ask her WHY she doesn’t like potatoes or cilantro, just go with it. She’ll never think it’s cute when you forget to flush the toilet…she’ll act like it doesn’t bother her, but it does. Put away her laundry for her, because the way she’ll do it will make you crazy. Pretend like you always want to drive because she hates driving and loves to be driven around like Miss Daisy. She loves marine mammals, and Christmas so go big on both of those. Always pour her beer into a glass. If she’s talked to her mom anytime recently be sure to give her more love than usual because she’s way more sad than she lets on. She falls down a lot. Always help her cross the street because she doesn’t pay attention, it’s cute, but really, hold her hand. Tell her she’s pretty when she puts on a dress. Buy her girly little necklaces and jewelry, she loves things like that. Scrape the windshield for her when it’s cold outside. Print out pictures for her, she needs things in frames. Leave her lots of notes, notes everywhere. Words, words, more words. She’s not as tough as she comes off, strong, but not tough, so be gentle with her. Take her on a vacation…because I never did. Know that she won’t give up without a fight. And don’t @!$%#ing hurt her, she’s been through enough.”

Tears roll down my cheeks and hers. We’re smiling. Crying. Just sitting there looking at each other. It’s so familiar and so completely different.

She’s holding my hand in a bar we used to meet our friends at. She buys me drinks and I watch her at the bar chatting with the bartender, smiling her smile, being my wife…but she’s not mine. She’s something new, and bright, and happy. As am I. 

She’s handing me off, I’ve let her go, it’s so sad, and yet something is so sweet at the bottom of all of it. 

We’re still there. We still exist. Nat and Mel. Still us. Still these two girls who fell so @!$%#ing in love over long shifts in a busy restaurant. We’re still the girls that make each other laugh and sing too loud in the car together. We’re still there, we’ve just evolved into something new, and different, and somewhat lovely.