We met at a coffee shop near her house. I bought her a drink and we chatted on the two plush chairs, bonding over our respective illnesses and who knows what else.
She was very scarf-y. Very well put-together in a tasteful way that I can see, in retrospect, shows that she is Cleo's daughter. I‘d had a bumpy winter (my Dad's stroke, my Mom's house fire) and couldn't have been my best self, but I liked her company.
Possibly motivated by the thought of getting some restless energy out through a walk. I suggested we go to IKEA. On the way there, I played her a brand new song called "My Grass Is Greener" during a critical gasoline fill-up. She probably heard "Knit Hat Girl" that day, a song of mine she heard infrequently but never forgot. It wasn't about her when I wrote it, but that doesn't matter; it is now.
I suggested we go to Johnny Brenda‘s next. I somehow got lost on the way there and fought feelings of frustration under cold, gray, Philadelphia skies, trying to stay in a good groove and be someone worth this stranger's time. I was relieved to finally park and be on foot with her, taking pictures around town before settling into a table at Johnny Brenda's. I'd only been there for rock shows previously and hadn't realized how cozy the dining area was.
We read each other poetry and song lyrics, respectively. Our best material about broken hearts. I think she might have told me more about her past cancer experiences to which I would've replied with my stories about my relatively puny experiences with iritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
I undoubtedly told her about meeting Peter Buck upstairs after a Robyn Hitchcock concert, tilting my head back like a Pez dispenser to make eye contact with the tall guitarist, handing him a note I wrote earlier that week: "A Letter To Peter Buck That Got Rained On."
On the second date. she came to my rental house and I walked her to the old, burned-down house, showing her where I used to live. My piano. The small handful of records I left there. (I left The Monkees' Headquarters. Changed my mind a few weeks later and recovered it.) The Stuff Wall. A gaggle of knit hats and fedoras and bucket hats. Later that year, she filmed me performing a song on top of a pile of post-demolition rubble.
I was not easy to be close to during that period and I was continually astonished at the effort she was making to remain in my life, no matter how standoffish I was acting. I think she knew I was the guy who was gonna make things a little better if things ever needed bettering.