I'm taking a do-over on my marriage after a two-year break. My almost ex-husband and I are looking for a new place to live, and this time we're going in with a plan and clearly defined expectations for how our lives together should look.
No way could we have done that 12 years ago or even two years ago when I left. For this marriage to have any chance of making it, it first had to come all the way undone.
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I met Sam in line for Grateful Dead tickets a few months after I started my first out-of-college reporting job. He was tall and tan and big across the shoulders with brown hair hanging down to his chest.
Some scenes you see forever in your head. I still see Sam coming down the block. How his arms hung away from his body, not touching his sides when he walked. He had on Birkenstock sandals, khaki shorts to the knees, and a green and black plaid flannel we still called "grunge" in 1993. And he was palming a cantaloupe.
After introducing himself, Sam pulled a Swiss Army knife from his shirt pocket, sliced the melon and offered a piece. I thought I hated cantaloupe, but he looked good and I took it anyway. When I asked to bum a smoke, he handed me a fake cigarette packed with pot grown in his basement.
Usually my mind would shut down around a man my eyes saw as more than a buddy, but with this guy the words came easy. We sat there all morning smoking and talking.
A few hours after we'd each gotten our tickets and gone our separate ways, he called the paper trying to track me down.
"I didn't get a chance to ask you your last name or your phone number or what you're doing after work," he said. My heart beat all the way up in my ears. "I got yesterday's paper out the garbage to find your byline."
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We shot pool and saw my favorite band that night, and had sex for hours the next. There were chunky buds of bright-green pot drying on the terrarium beside his futon bed, and they made the room smell all skunky. But I was more stoned on Sam than that pot.
It was only supposed to be a summer fling, that's what I told myself, no strings. He was moving out West in the fall, and I had a killer new job. But hey, no reason we couldn't have some fun before he left.