June 3, 2013

It's been seven years. Seven years and 25 days since the ultimatum, since this thing between Luke and I imploded in the street in front of the diner. Seven years and 25 days since my life became something I didn't recognize.

Some days it's hard to keep it together. But especially today. Today, I have my own dark day. I disappear. Only Rory knows where I am, and she has pinky promised not to tell. This is the 5th year in a row, so Sookie has come to expect it. I block off several days for vacation, and she and Michel know better than to ask about my plans.

I don't always go to the same place. One year I just crashed on Rory's couch. In 2009, I rented a cabin that was pretty secluded, although it also had cable TV and wifi because a Gilmore needs creature comforts. Last year, my parents gave me a weekend at a fancy spa in Vermont. This year, I checked into the Plaza in New York City and planned an improvised movie themed walking tour. I started off with some danishes and coffee in front of Tiffany's on 5th Avenue, and then I hope to cap the day by arguing with a handsome stranger over the last pair of gloves at Bloomingdales.

It's the only day of the year that I allow myself to get sentimental. I cry and mope, and let myself feel all of the emotions that I don't allow myself to feel the rest of the year. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of distraction used on this day. But I usually end it with a viewing of The Way We Were and an unhealthy amount of crying.

Most of the year, I'm able to make casual small talk during my rare trips to the diner. I order my food, I smile, and I ask polite questions about April. But today, I don't have to. I don't have to keep on my game face. I don't have to pretend I'm fine. It's kind of a relief to not have to walk around with a fake smile or pretend not to notice the glances people give when they think I'm not paying attention.

I lick the remains of the danish from my fingers. My breakfast eaten, I toss the remains of my coffee into the trash and start walking toward Central Park. It's still early, but I can tell the day is going to be a scorcher. It's only early June, it shouldn't be this hot yet. I hope to be able to make my next stop before I can't take the heat, which is the performing arts high school that Fame was based on. After that, I plan to backtrack toward the Russian Tea Room for lunch before I get to Bloomingdales.

It's not lost on me that I intend to wear myself out by traipsing all over Manhattan. When I detailed my plans to Rory a few days ago, she pointed it out, too. Having a plan keeps my mind focused. I dressed for the occasion in a khaki skirt and a kitschy t-shirt emblazoned with some indie band that I don't recognize, but that Lane has waxed poetically about. I've got a pair of Nikes on my feet, and I brought the smallest purse I own. The wonderful thing about New York is that it takes a lot to stand out here, and I love being able to disappear into the crowd for a few hours.

I arrive at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School 45 minutes after I leave Tiffany's. I'm not speed walking through this tour, not only because it's hot, but because there's no rush. Since it's June, and a Monday, classes are still in session, and there are a few people milling around outside the school. I sit down on the steps, and momentarily wish Rory were here, but change my mind just as quickly. In recent years, Rory's patience with me and this day has run out. She thinks I need to either confront Luke or let it go. And maybe she's right, but I'm not ready to give up yet. I want to wait at least 8 years, since that's how long he held on to that horoscope. Then, if there's still no hope, maybe I'll consider trying to let go, even though I don't know how to go about doing that.

The concept of moving on seems so simple until you actually try to do it.

I wonder if he still has the horoscope.

I hang out in front of the high school until I need to leave in order to make my lunch reservation. Reserving a table for one in this beautiful restaurant is either the most pathetic or the most self-indulgent thing I've ever done. I've never been the type of person to spend so much time alone, but since Rory began living her adult life, I find myself alone a lot. Frequently, it's by choice. It gets tiring to hear the same questions over and over. "How are you?" "Is there a man in your life?" "What's new with you?" Again and again, the curious and well-meaning residents of Stars Hollow keep edging as close as possible to the question they really want to ask: "Why aren't you and Luke together?"

The meal is heavenly. It's fun to sit in the restaurant and think about the scene from Tootsie, one of my favorite films. I can't help but think again about Rory. Maybe it would have been worth it to listen to her sage almost-30-year-old advice just to share this with her.

I impulsively decide to call her. She picks up on the first ring.

"This is Lorelai Gilmore," she says, all business-like. It gives me a little thrill to hear her like this, all journalistic savant.

"No, this is Lorelai Gilmore!" I say, and can't help but giggle a little.

"Mom!" she says, and she sounds happy to hear from me. "I thought you were in New York today?"

"Oh, I am," I say, playing with the dregs of chocolate sauce from my cheesecake with the tines of my fork. "I'm at the Russian Tea Room, and I just wanted to call you so we could pretend you were here with me."

"Aw, that's cool."

"So, how's my big shot reporter? Has it warmed up at all?" Rory is in Toronto, doing some kind of journalism equivalent of an exchange program. Right now she's embroiled in reporting on some kind of scandal regarding the mayor. It all sounds full of intrigue, and she's in her element. I miss her every moment of every day, but I'm so proud of her. She's really living her dreams. She doesn't stay in one place for long, but her wanderlust always brings her back to Stars Hollow eventually.

"It's still chilly in the mornings," she says, and I hear faint clacking on the other end. "But the afternoons are really nice. I'm enjoying it."

"Uh-oh," I say, "don't get all ex-pat on me, now."

"Don't worry," she reassures me, even though she knows I'm teasing. "My roots will always be in Stars Hollow."

"I miss you, sweets," I say, and again I wish I had chosen to be with my daughter on this day, lectures be damned.

"Miss you too, Mom," she replies. "Try not to be too sad today, okay?"

"I'm actually having a pretty good day," I tell her, and it's true. The city feels alive, and having a place to go and a checklist to complete is not leaving me a lot of time for sentimentality. It's a nice change of pace from previous June 3rds.

I tell her a little about the day I've had so far, about the guy that whistled at me even though he was clearly not a day older than nineteen and I'm old enough to be his mother. I describe the other diners at the tea room, and I make up stories about them, with Rory interjecting her own comments. Too soon, she has a call on the other line and has to go. I'm hoping that I'll get to see her soon. Maybe I'll take a weekend and go visit her in Canada.

I take my time with my lunch, and linger over an additional glass of wine even after I've practically licked my dessert plate clean. I know I only have one planned stop after this, and then it's back to the hotel. I'm feeling pretty strong today, like it's okay to not have a plan after this. Maybe it's all the exercise that my body isn't used to, but I feel somewhat euphoric.

Bloomingdale's is practically next door in comparison to the rest of the walking I've done today. It hardly takes me any time at all before I'm walking inside, seeing all of the shiny displays and being circled by waiting salespeople, ready to push some kind of sample at me. I spend hours wandering through all the departments, trying on different clothes and poring over makeup. I end up spending way too much money on some organic bubble bath (who knew that was a thing?) and another pair of shoes that I probably don't need.

The only time I almost lose it is when I see a dress that looks uncannily similar to the one I wore the night that I proposed to Luke. I finger the soft material and give in to the feeling of loss. I allow a single tear to escape, then I close my eyes and breathe deeply, and continue browsing.

I end up buying this beautiful, simple, black Christian Dior dress. It has a plunging neckline and a flared skirt. I can pair it with some red accessories and a tube of red lipstick. When I put it on, I know I look great. Sexy, even. And strangely enough, today I feel spunky enough to feel like I can wear it and feel good about everything that implies.

After Bloomies, I go back to the Plaza and up to my room. I am about to turn on my laptop, start The Way We Were, and cry while eating room service, but suddenly, I decide to change things up. I'm 45 years old, a short jump to 50. I can't seriously spend the rest of my life pining, can I? I'm an attractive woman for my age. I could at least have a fling. It's been two and a half long years since I've been intimate with anything but my vibrator. So, resolved, I change and primp. After I've put on my beautiful new dress, I dig around in my makeup bag and am triumphant to find a tube of Vicious Trollop.

The Rose Club is pretty full, even for early evening. I am seated at a table, and I order a drink. I'm listening to the jazz music and enjoying the low lighting. I'm trying to look mysterious and alluring, but also aloof. I can't remember the last time I did this. When I was finally old enough to go to a bar, I already had a five year old. Sookie and I occasionally went out when Rory was a little older, and I may have picked up a number here and there, but I never went home with someone directly from the bar. I'm a little nervous, but also excited. Who says you can't experience new things as you age?

It doesn't take long before a handsome man comes up to me. "Is this seat taken?" he asks, indicating the chair across the small table from mine, and I smile flirtatiously. As opening lines go, it's not bad. He has thick, wavy brown hair and dark brown eyes. He is tanned, but not in that fake orange way. I surreptitiously check his left hand, which is thankfully ringless.

"It is now," I reply, and I flip my hair. He's already entranced, I can tell, and I'm unsure if he thinks I'm someone he wants to get to know, or if he's just trying to figure out if I'm going to be an easy conquest.

We spend a couple of hours talking. His name is Dennis, and he runs a brokerage. He doesn't try to bore me with financial talk, and I mention my inn sparingly. Instead, we talk about New York. About the places I went today, and about the ones he loves. He comes here often on business, although he calls Miami home. It's a wonderful way to spend the evening. We order drinks and food, and time passes more quickly than I expect. I'm fairly tipsy by the time he finally makes his move.

"I have a room," he says, and even though this is what I've been aiming for the whole time we've been talking, my throat feels like it's closing up and I can hardly breathe. I smile wanly, then give a quick glance at my watch.

"Oh, look at the time!" I cry, fake sincerity oozing out of my voice. "I need to get back and relieve the babysitter. Did you know they charge time and a half these days if you're late?"

He stutters something, and I sweep out of there as fast as I can. I'm already sobbing by the time I reach my door. It takes a few tries before I'm able to open it, and I stumble into the bathroom, dropping my new dress on the floor in a heap. I turn on the shower and I have to lean against the tile wall as the sobs wrack my body. The spray muffles the sound slightly, but I still hope no one can hear me out in the hallway.

Eventually, exhaustion overtakes me, and the sobs quiet to sniffles. I wash off my makeup, wrap myself in one of the plush robes, and fall into the bed. I expect to toss and turn for hours, but fortunately, I quickly fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.