I left the house in a hurry, Gimli practically shoving me out the door as he took over putting the kids to bed. I had dithered over what necklace to wear – the first time I have worn jewelry at all, other than my wedding ring, since Oscar was born – and finally chose a paua shell pendant I picked up in New Zealand on our honeymoon, that I used to wear a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I had swapped out my ballet flats for low heels, my usual funky-ethnic-embroidered shoulder bag from Mongolia for a grown-up black purse, and had on my nicest dress (a sleeveless turquoise-colored cotton with an empire waist and cleverly hidden openings for nursing a baby); the paua shell was a gesture towards my hippie persona and an identity anchor because dressed as I was, I hardly felt like myself – or, at least, I felt like a version of myself that I haven’t seen in such a long time I scarcely recognized her.
So I was running a little late.
It didn’t matter; Zana – one of the many women my husband works with – was running even later since she had to cross the city to drop her kids off at her mom’s house before meeting me downtown. So about an hour later we were sitting at an outdoor café with a beer (her), a red wine (me), and a plate of sliced apples watching the full moon rise over the Blloku – former restricted zone under communism, now the focal point for Tirana night-life – talking about our lives.
It was really, really nice. Zana was easy to talk to – her English is excellent, and she tolerated my lame Shqip very kindly – I joked to Gimli later that he’s going to get really sick of hearing me begin every third sentence for the next few weeks with “Zana says…” – and it was just fun to be out late at night. Normally it’s not even within the realm of conceivability for me to leave the house after 7 p.m. and here I was out past 10:00! But Tirana’s such a small town in some ways – Zana’s younger brother buzzed by on his motorcycle at one point, and later came to pick us up in his car (it was nice to get dropped off at home instead of having to walk alone late at night, even though it wasn’t far – maybe 5 minutes’ walk? – it would have felt silly to take a taxi for such a short distance). It was exhilarating to dash across the street in high heels, slightly tipsy, after being dropped off – I felt young.
I have another friend date pending for next week with another of his coworkers, Irina (who is currently going through a divorce – oh the awkwardness of knowing more about people than you probably should because of office gossip), and a girl’s night out with some American women on Tuesday evening. So it feels like my dance card is pretty full at the moment.
It’s a nice feeling.