“My mom remarried to…” I paused for a moment. I rarely said their names out loud and I tried not to tumble over saying it. “Frank… my step dad. He made her happy. They were both teachers.”
“Was your dad a lawyer?” His questions were like little stabs, the more he asked the easier it became. I inhaled, and the smell of exhaust and jasmine filled me.
“Yep. So was my brother. Although…” I paused again. Saying their names was still a challenge. “Brandon and I practiced much different law. He was a tax attorney.”
Jordan squeezed my hand, pulling it to his lips, that little movement giving me more courage. He didn’t mind my memories, didn’t mind my sadness. He pulled it out of me, allowing me to share my grief, surrounding me in his friendship and compassion.
“While I was at Berkley, I got involved with some protests with the ACLU and then the rest was history. I ended up working at Brindle, Jackson, and Cook out of the LA office. Sylvia Jackson thought I was fiery and wanted me to work with them.”
“You earned that position.” he confirmed.
“I was arrested five times protesting in my second year and graduated at the top of my class. I did well.” I bragged. “I moved back to LA and met David. He was a teacher at my mom’s and Frank’s school. They introduced us at a Christmas party. We hit it off, got married and had Emily within a year.” I stopped for a moment, tears prickled in my eyes. Not the sobbing kind of tears, but the kind that glisten and are blinked back as the memories filled me with a gentle ache. This memory of Emily’s lavender baby shampoo and the feel of her delicate feet on my lips when I kissed her squirming toes caused these tears. Weepy and satisfying because I could remember with a degree of happiness for having had them at all. “David wanted to be a stay home dad and with his job, it made sense. So I worked… and traveled.”
I was a geyser of information, a mess, but it helped to be able to talk about it and Jordan was kind. He’d been there. He knew what it was like. I looked up at him and he stopped and brushed his lips on mine. Bolstering more courage and helping me to tear down the wall I shouldn’t have put up in the first place.
We continued walking, and Pennsylvania Avenue became busier as the food and souvenir trucks began to open for business.
“We’re going to the Archives, aren’t we?” Jordan asked. “It took me a while to make the connection.” He put his arm around me. “Where else would an idealist ACLU lawyer worship?”
“I don’t always work with the ACLU,” I objected.
“When I was in the eighth grade, my class went on a field trip here. My dad chaperoned. The Archives wasn’t on the trip agenda. He was outraged so, he pulled me off the red bus for a few hours and we visited the viewing room.” I pointed to the Art déco building, the National Archives entrance. The massive structure loomed over us and we walked around to the public entrance, getting in line for the Rotunda viewing.
“When I was here with my dad, it was like being at a church. The reverence he used to describe what the Constitution meant to him has lived with me for all these years.” I wondered if he understood the awe I had for this document. “Once it was our turn to read it, I couldn’t believe the power of the words. My dad had them memorized. The power those words had over him made him run for office. When he died, I knew I would follow in his footsteps.”
“You want to run for office?” Jordan asked.
I laughed. “No, I knew the power of these words would inspire me to do what’s right for people. My dad helped people as the mayor. We worked in service of the people. I like helping people.”
They ushered us into a line to view the documents. He held my hand as I continued to talk about the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Declaration.
“After the field trip, I bought a poster of the Constitution. I memorized the words. The Constitution was my gateway drug to the Bill of Rights,” I joked. “I still use these words in the cases I argue. Powerful then and even more so now.”
The crowd grew to a hush as we tiptoed into the viewing room. I wanted to rush to the Constitution like a little kid running to their favorite swing, but I waited my turn to see it. I released Jordan’s hand and touched the counter to lean over and get a glimpse of the ancient document, mouthing the words as I read it. He moved behind me so that others could share the space. His hand on my hip, his body pressed against me, and he moved my hair behind my head so that my view wasn’t obscured by the strands.
I tapped the counter once I finished and took a deep breath. I could hear every whisper in the rounded room. We were the last in the group and I heard a child complain loudly that they were bored. I turned to leave. Jordan didn’t move, but watched and followed me out of the viewing room to the stairs.
“Want to head to the museum?” I asked.
“Not this one,” he said. “I’d like to show you where I worship.” He wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me close to him, kissing my cheek.
“Let me guess.” I laughed.
* * *
We strolled towards the National Gallery, his hand in mine. The spring heat was rising, and the clouds were collecting above us. They looked menacing, with threats of showers soon to come. None of that really mattered to me, not at this moment. Walking with Jordan, heading to the art I loved, I sighed. This day was turning beautiful despite the gathering clouds above.
The National Gallery was one of my favorite places to wander around. Jordan took me to see his favorite artists, Cezanne and Renoir. We stopped by the Matisse exhibit and sat staring at the great walls filled with dancing blue ladies and colorful flowers. This would always be my favorite room. Being around Jordan, watching him sketch was alluring. The swift way his hand brushed across the paper, small lines transforming into the thing he was drawing—it was mesmerizing. We sat for a while and then the guard looked at his watch. He cleared his throat and glanced at us expectantly. The Matisse exhibit closed at eleven a.m.
Jordan sketched and didn’t notice the guard hurrying us along. I leaned over and kissed him, hoping to distract. He stopped working, woken from his trance. His face, sparked with a look of hunger as if he would devour me in one sitting. Then after realizing where we were, he bit his lip, caging in the desire on his face. I’d seen it and I liked it.
“We need food.” He pulled me towards him and kissed the hollow between my jaw and ear, and the guard cleared his throat again.
“Jordan,” I pretended to admonish him.
We walked to the cafeteria surrounded by art stores where you could buy replicas of all the art displayed in the exhibits.
Jordan and I grabbed some pizza slices and sodas and sat down near a couple with a baby. They looked tired but smiled at us. Normally, I wouldn’t sit near a family so similar to what I lost. My mind would be spinning for ways to escape. Now it was bittersweet. Happy to see a couple in their blissful exhaustion.