Thawings

Sunday Letter | #328

A partially frozen Lake Michigan, blue and orange.
Arctic Sunset, Fennville, Michigan

Years from now, I’ll remember this weekend as the end of winter.

Julia and I drove out to our friends’ cabin on Lake Michigan – the first time we’ve been there while they were also there. The streets were a slurry of sand and slush; the lake, pictured above, looked practically glacial. Beforehand the four of us isolated and got tested, and we’ve all had at least one poke of the vaccine (Julia is a nurse and I was able to get mine through a volunteer opportuity at a county clinic). We felt that our risks were finally – finally! – minimal enough to hang out. In person. Indoors. Without masks.

Reader, we hugged the crap out of each other. It was the first unmasked hug I’ve given to someone who wasn’t Julia in over a year.

We had no grand ambitions for the weekend, mostly just sitting around and talking together, playing board games together, watching nostalgic 90s movies and music videos together, cooking and eating food and drinking alcohol together. Did I mention that we were in the same room?

Fellow introverts may know the feeling I’m talking about: Every once in a while, in the Before days, you’d have one of those nights when you’d be out with friends and were completely at ease and un-self-conscious, uneager to get back home or escape behind a glowing screen. When you felt free to unload thoughts and opinions that’d been rattling around in your head for days, pontificate even to total strangers.

It’s like one of those nights. One of those weekends. These aren’t strangers, mind you, but it has the same euphoria. We talk about career changes, and being wary of what start out as stepping stones but turn into Calypsoed isles – keeping you longer than you intend to stay.

We talk about the mode of thinking that comes with learning to code – how you develop an eye for repetition, and a skill in eliminating it; you see that practically anything that can be reduced to step-by-step instructions can be automated away, for better or worse.

We talk about the odd pleasure of having things run in the background: pork ribs slow-cooking in the oven for eight hours, rocks tumbling smooth in a silicated cylinder for eight days. Bulbs planted in winter, green shoots in spring.

We talk about the surrealist bend of recent SNL skits – how the news itself has been so hard to parody because it essentially is parody. How the cultural products of the 90s were so rife with melodrama. How it was the decade of the 20th century in which the fewest bad things happened, so we collectively overstretched so as to give it the same emotional valence.

Things unproven and unprovable, but fun to talk and think about, together.


We’re driving up to see Julia’s parents next month, another first in over a year. A few weeks ago they sold their house – her childhood home – but she could only do a last walkthrough with them over FaceTime.

Toward the end of June, my dad’s flying in from China, and Julia and I are getting married.