Chris Wiewiora explains how reuniting with an ex is a testament to hope and human strength.
On the wall of the museum hung a poster with a red lip-sticked mouth sucking on a blue irised eyeball. Underneath—centered—it read:
The New Dalí Museum
Grand Opening 1.11.11
It was Lauren and my grand opening, too. Well, maybe more like our grand RE-opening. It would be the third time that Lauren and I were trying again.
I had first asked Lauren to be my girlfriend on August 29th and things ended October 14th (I remember thinking of it as an unlucky Friday). We kinda got back together in December—briefly—but pulled apart again before Christmas. On February 13th, I handed Lauren’s best friend Chelsey a basket that she took to work the next day and set on Lauren’s desk. I had filled the basket with a made-from-scratch pumpkin (her favorite flavor) muffin that I made from a can of pumpkin I had been keeping since the fall; a pound of World Market pumpkin coffee that I had bought back in October and froze to keep fresh; a plum purple (her favorite color) mug; and a small book with a big heart The Wet Engine by Brian Doyle.
On the inside flap of the cover I wrote a note:
This book is about the wondrous motor inside us, driving life to love. I like that we keep going forward together on this road.
Later, when I talked to Lauren, I told her I’d like to take her that weekend to the new Dalí Museum for a date. And so, at the beginning of our third try, I drove Lauren from Orlando to St. Pete. It was a blue-sky Florida Saturday. No jacket needed, no air-conditioner on in the car. The air was light and smooth and crisp.
I was excited and nervous and curious. I think Lauren was, too. I kept glancing at her in the passenger seat. Lauren’s beautiful blue eyes matched the water of Tampa Bay that we crossed.
The museum emerged on the other side of a bridge. The building was a square concrete block, but with these bulbous blue windows that looked like droplets of water dripping down the walls to seep back into the bay. A row of palms lined the perimeter as we drove up One Dalí Boulevard.
The sign at the front of the museum had Dalí’s name spelled in multicolors surreally falling into each other. The cranberry D holding up the leaning pea soup green A. The gunmetal grey L on its side like a Tetris block trying to fit into a row. The blue í laying horizontal. The flick of its accent like a striked match setting the other letters on fire.
After we parked, went inside, and passed the mouthsucking-an-eyeball poster, we stood in line for tickets. The line wrapped around a Rolls Royce Phantom II draped in artificial seaweed. The windshield wipers arced. The driver was an old-fashioned diver with a copper helmet. A sign read: Please do not touch kiss stroke or drive the exhibition.
Lauren and I held hands even as I fished for my wallet out of my pocket to pay for us. I didn’t want to let go of her again. We got green wristbands like at a concert, that if we left, then we could return.
We walked up a spiral staircase and joined a tour lead by a short woman in khakis and a navy blazer who mostly kept her hands clenched together behind her back. The woman had a walkie-talkie holstered to her belt. The tour-woman opened her hands flat and gestured to Dalí’s famous paintings:
- The melting clocks hanging like wet sheets in what, to me, looked like a post-apocalyptical landscape.
- The pixilated portrait of Abe Lincoln with an inset of Dalí’s wife Gala standing butt-naked in front of a window looking at the sun breaking through clouds shaped like Jesus crucified and at the same time erupting as a phoenix. The tour-woman said, “It’s the most popular poster ever, because lots of college students buy it for their dorms.”
- The bullring with a toreader (a.k.a. a matador) made from three statues of Venus. I knew underneath Lauren’s t-shirt she had the same image as the canvas tattooed on the inside of her bicep.
To tell the truth, I didn’t really pay too much attention to the tour. I was thinking how I was so happy to be with Lauren. She kept putting her arm around me and I pulled her close, still, somewhat afraid to hold her too tight.
After the tour, downstairs, we ate at Café Gala. We split a wrap, a muffin, and a sweet ice tea with a zesty curl of a lemon floating on top. Whole green olives and roasted almonds garnished the round plate with the wrap. The olives made me think of a plastic martini trinket in Lauren’s bedroom: two olives plunk in the glass and a toothpick spears their red pits shaped like hearts, and the toothpick rises above the lip of the glass like a cartoon word-bubble that says, “Olive you!”
After we ate, we left the museum and walked along the soft as confectioner’s sugar sand of St. Pete Beach. At the shore, we took off our shirts. Lauren had on a beige-colored bra. We stretched out on some hotel’s sun chairs. I thought about trying again after already trying again. This time, it wasn’t just me trying, but Lauren and me trying. Then I realized that it wasn’t about how many times we tried, but that we were trying. And our trying meant hope. An infinite hope in each other, together. And so, we soaked in the warm honey-glow that gushed over everything.