They were setting up for Clinton's second inauguration on the lawn in front of the Capitol. (You know, They.) I was wandering the city alone, having successfully indicated to Nate that though we were left alone together on this capital adventure, we were not together. There were really not many people around -- it was cold. Loudspeakers blared Unforgettable by the Coles -- I mean really, really blared -- and I wanted to dance.
I'm pretty sure I was heartsick for Steve and it was him with whom I wanted to slow dance right there on the mall, but I'm also pretty sure I didn't allow myself to entertain that dream. He was newly home from Chile; we had been spending all kinds of time together, for he was my best friend (but most especially he had a car and could take me to the grocery store); but there really was just no way a romantic relationship was ever going to come of that. He was convinced of it and I was reluctantly convinced of it and no, we had never had this discussion, but he had eagerly given his blessing to James to ask me out and that was evidence enough that Steve did not love me like I had secretly loved him since 11th grade.
And so I had begun to date James. I had begun to like James. And I acknowledged to myself, and to James, that it was James whom I was missing on this lonely, coming-of-age trip to Washington. I wrote him a heartfelt letter. I sent him a long postcard. I channeled all my heartsick loneliness to the guy back in Phoenix who was into me when Steve Craig so clearly was not. I told James about wanting to dance with him as the workers set up chairs and presidential structures, and about how instead I did a signature shoulder dance move of his right there in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of the city to honor the moment and him and the 26 states between us.
And that was my trip to DC. The first time I'd been back east. An extension and final installment of my assumption of adulthood that began in earnest six months previously during my thrilling and also lonely summer in southern Africa.
The epilogue goes like this: I came home and married Steve, natch, and I still marvel that I was able to make that happen when I think about it. James was gracious and emotional and sweet when I called to tell him our engagement news; the next person he dated after me became his beautiful, classy wife. Cassie and Shawn got married. Nate is nowhere to be found on Facebook. Clinton balanced the budget and lied to the world. And I got to go back to DC this month, for the second time ever, this time with Steve Craig and our baby #5. We had a wonderful time, thank you for asking.