The old saying goes “hindsight is 20/20” and I guess I can’t argue. Although my actual vision is far from perfect, I can say with some degree of confidence that you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.
It feels a lot like my mind is spinning and I can’t move forward until I pry my feet from the past, stare it in the face and acknowledge what once was. So here I go, in a flurry of thoughts and words, to write about the thing that I don’t even want to think about right now, Cris.
Rewind time to spring of 2015. I remember vividly coming into the kitchen lab classroom for a new night class with one of my favorite teachers. I sat down at the steel tables and looked over to see a guy, quietly sitting at the table to my left, reading a book. As I appraised him, a friend of mine gave me to skinny and I found out that this mystery man with long hair and lots of tattoos was deemed to be “ok” by my counterpart, and so we could extend him an invitation to be a part of the group. Little did I know at the time that this guy would turn my life upside down. Through that one class we became acquaintances and then friends. Spending hours upon hours doing group work will do that to people and somehow you seem to jump straight into that comfortable phase of friendship where you feel that you’ve known someone for ages and you can’t possibly walk to the parking lot for a break without them in tow.
As spring turned to summer, we shared more classes, more projects and more break times getting to know each other. We laughed at the same jokes, liked (and disliked) the same people and generally just got along like peas in a pod. We drank beers with the gang, and always had our own little “inside jokes” at the same time. We both had partners, and we turned to each other for advice on dating, or just a shoulder to lean on when we felt our partners just didn’t understand. I recall the first time we made a good team, just he and I. We were working the grill station together at the student run restaurant and somehow, we moved in synchronicity, as we plated lunches, grilled sandwiches and cleaned the station. We laughed and smiled knowingly at one another, even saying out loud at one point “we make such a good team!” Little did we know how much more of a team we could be, in life and love.
Just like that, time had crept away and by fall 2015 we sat next to one another as we graduated from the culinary arts program. Proud and excited, we vowed not to let the friendship die. Life was moving fast and changing quickly. By this point I had let go of my significant other and found a place of my own. Cris soon followed suit and knowing that we no longer had an excuse not to, we were forced to acknowledge the chemistry that was so strong and so obvious to all of our close circle of friends. We happily gave in to one another and began a whirlwind romance.
As with almost all relationships, bliss was an understatement at the beginning. Wrapped up in each other we couldn’t get enough. There were not hours enough in the day for us to kiss, go on adventures, drink and eat till our hearts content and just enjoy the beauty; that was all we could see. All consumed (at least on my side to be sure), we agreed that we could make our romance withstand the time and distance looming, as Cris had decided to take a winter job at a ski resort out of state. We enjoyed our time together until mid November when he packed up his car and drove to the Midwest, where he would stay with a long-time buddy until the spring.
Thanks to modern technology, we sent each other flirty snaps, had face-time conversations almost daily, sent text messages at all hours and kept the love alive. I took a few weeks off and visited him over Christmas and New Years Eve, where we spent our free time watching the snow fall, drinking wine and cuddling like we would never meet again. We endured a car accident during that two week trip, learned to carve wood (or at least tried), kissed at midnight on New Years Eve and vowed to love each other forever. I came back home and soon enough, his birthday rolled around in the spring so I made another trip to visit, this time in Denver. We spent a lovely weekend visiting museums, sight-seeing at the US Mint, and eating and drinking with friends of mine from high school. Eventually, the love of my life finally came home, back to San Diego, and then moved into my apartment with me.
Having my best friend and partner live with me was so much fun. I would wake up to the delicious smell of coffee and breakfast, with him at the stove looking like a dream. I loved those moments, full of leisure, relaxed comfort and love. Soon he and I would take our first “big” trip together, a cruise to Alaska. In summer 2016 we packed our bags and took a trip to Seattle, where we spent a few days exploring all it had to offer before we boarded our cruise ship to visit Alaska and British Columbia. We went rock climbing, danced, ate good food, gambled and just enjoyed our time together. Once back on land, we again boarded a plane and took a flight to Wyoming to visit my parents over the 4th of July holiday. We had the “meet the parents” visit and it was perfect. The family loved him, he loved the area and it seemed as if he was truly the one.
In the fall, we were “party animals” for Halloween (a customary couples costume, as the previous year we had been Gomez and Morticia Addams), Cris went on to achieve a long time goal of completing a half marathon and I supported him, cheering him on at the finish line. Since he had been gone for so long the previous winter, we hadn’t found ourselves apart for more than a couple days until September 2016, when we planned individual trips to visit friends. I went to Michigan to see a friend from culinary school who had moved away, and he went to New Orleans to spend time with a good friend from the military. After returning from vacation it was back to regular life, or so it seemed, until we found out about a contest being held by our school. Cris was a great and talented culinary artist so there was no doubt in our minds he could manage to win, and with a trip to cook at the James Beard House on the line it was a must. Again, with our partnership and skills, we tackled the problem head on. We created an original 5-course menu in the fall season theme, created a recipe for an original dish and then we executed. Gathering the ingredients we took it one step further than required and made the dish, documenting the process in photo and words as we went. I designed the menu and compiled the entry package, and then we waited. I felt it in my heart that we had done well and I just knew he would win. As expected, a few weeks later the results were out and he had won! We were now going to New York City during Thanksgiving week so he could cook at a special dinner, which was perfection, as his family lived just outside the city so we could visit them as well!
Thanksgiving week was upon us so we met in New York and spent a whirlwind week in a gorgeous boutique hotel right in the heart of Greenwich Village. The first night there, we met at a restaurant across from the Flatiron and I felt the gravity of NYC. A city I had never explored, it was amazing to be there in the fall. A crisp, cool electricity nipped at my heels as I ran from one sight to the next, taking the subway every direction and to every well known stop I could think of. Unfortunately Cris was consumed with the needs of the cooking team, so he was exhausted, being shuffled between classes, media, and actual cooking prep. We managed to spend the nights together and our last evening together we found Chelsea Market and had the most amazing dinner at Morimoto. I departed on Thanksgiving day to spend the holiday with his family outside the city, while we could watch him in action in the kitchen from a live video feed. Soon our adventure was over and we again found ourselves back in our cozy apartment, reminiscing about an unforgettable week.
Just after our return, it seemed like the universe was daring us to see how far we would go, Cris stumbled upon a happy coincidence. While talking to his cousin who was planning a trip to Thailand in the spring, he found tickets at an unbeatable price of just $400 USD per person, round trip! We had a talk and agreed that we couldn’t let such a good deal pass, so we booked the tickets and all of a sudden we had Thailand and Cambodia on the books for the spring of 2017. I was in my last quarter of school and he was just getting settled into a new job at an up and coming restaurant in La Jolla, a wealthy surf-side community about 20 minutes from our home. We were invigorated by our high from New York and inspired by what was to come, so we planned our adventure to Thailand and Cambodia, letting it be the fuel to our fire in saving money and working hard.
It seemed that every few months we had a new adventure, and January was nothing different. Needing to attend a family wedding, we took time in mid January of 2017 and visited San Francisco and the surrounding areas. We had a dream dinner at Petite Crenn, had amazing wine in the Napa Valley, and tried one of the largest beer flights we had ever seen at the Russian River Brewery. Somehow we managed to have our life, have some fun and save in the process and then in the blink of an eye it was time to go.
We spent three weeks, traveling across Thailand and Cambodia. We met new friends, at amazing food, saw temples and monuments, took an 18 hour train ride, played with elephants in a sanctuary, saw beaches worthy of a screen saver and made memories to last a lifetime. We got to experience the Songkran waterfight in the heart of Kosan Row and even ate some bugs. Unfortunately for Cris, he did experience a little food poisoning, but all in all, the trip was a success beyond measure and three weeks flew by as only vacations can. Little could I guess that this would be the last trip as a “we” and be the beginning of the end.
Now we are here, the present, current day. With the breakup still fresh and wounds still healing, it took me over a month to pen this post. As time does, it heals all wounds, but never as quickly as one could hope, and though wounds heal, they do leave scars. It hurts, even at this very moment, but I choose to reflect on the moments of joy, the feelings of happiness and hopefully with the publishing of this post, I can find some sense of closure. In retrospect, I can see the things I took from Cris, the good the bad and the in between. Cris taught me to enjoy life more completely. He showed me the value of nature, taught me about what a true partnership and team can endure and overcome. He showed me, even if only briefly, what it felt like to be loved in a way I had yet to understand. I learned also how to stand on my own two feet and hold my head up at the end of a relationship. Although it was not without pain, I came out the other side with a better sense of self and with hope in my heart. The memories cannot be erased, but they can be archived in the deep recesses of my mind and heart, to be called upon in the future to remember the lessons and appreciate the growth that comes with heartbreak.