One of the things that I am trying to figure out in my relationship with Johnny is how to compromise: when should I compromise and when should I stick to my own inclinations. When I take up with Johnny it has been many years since I have been in a committed relationship (and my last serious relationship ended because we could not create a compromise in how/where to live). I don’t know how people learn the skills they need in relationships: compromise was not big in my family of origin, which was authoritarian in nature. Previous rounds of couples therapy with prior partners had not taught me either. Johnny could be both easygoing and flexible and utterly uncompromising. Perhaps that is true of me, too — after all, we were twelve years apart (plus four days) and shared a sun sign and a Chinese zodiac animal.

After Johnny’s successful blues gig at the Point Reyes Station House, the next thing on his plate was a Carnival gig featuring the music of The Band just six days later. He would cram in a movie, another memorial gathering, and three rehearsals before the gig. He wanted me to go to the movie and the memorial gathering, which I did.

Just two days after our luxurious dinner at the Station House, Johnny asks me if I will make soup for sixty people for his next gig. He remembers that I made two pots of soup in December for a caroling party at my house. Unlike Johnny, I know the difference between feeding a dozen people and feeding sixty. I start to demur and he says, “You can just make one pot of soup.”

Johnny will reimburse me for the soup costs. And, because he has a cushion from his brother’s insurance money, he offers to front me some money for an airline ticket to France (I have been singing extra shifts at BART for months to save the air fare, but the prices keep rising). I have saved $1000 and fares are now running about $1600.

I think I have two days off for the weekend — I have no Farmers’ Market shift — and I have been imagining reading, writing, resting, lounging around and only rousing myself to go to Johnny’s gig on Sunday afternoon. But Johnny is helping me out with airfare, so I will cook: Sunday morning finds me stirring up two pots of the simplest soup I make, a Mexican corn soup concocted of frozen corn, fresh lime juice, cilantro and jarred salsa. I have to chop the cilantro and squeeze the limes, but the rest of the preparation is dump and stir and heat. Then I puree half of the mixture in a blender and I am done: I have made soup for thirty, rather than sixty.

I am supposed to buy disposable bowls for the soup, but I am so used to avoiding the disposable aisle I forget to get them, although we have discussed it twice. I kick the bowl task back to Johnny. I do, however, buy baguettes to slice to go with the soup.

I arrive at Avonova in Oakland, a concert space built into a private home. I arrive before the show starts and Jimmy, the club owner, shows me the mezzanine kitchen overlooking the seats and stage. I admire some handleless conical measuring cups — I have never seen anything like them. Jimmy tells me they belonged to his grandmother.

The seats fill up as the crowd comes in. The band takes the stage. Johnny straps on his red Telecaster. The bass player and the keyboard player sing harmony to Johnny’s lead. They play “The Weight” and “ Up on Cripple Creek,” but also the rarely-sung parable “Daniel and the Sacred Harp.” The volume is a problem for me: the venue offers foam ear plugs, which I use, but they do not reduce the volume enough for me. I go up to the kitchen before intermission to reheat soup and slice baguettes. People line up and I ladle soup into bowls for them.

Johnny buys my airline ticket on his debit card as promised. I want to pay him what I have immediately, but he urges me to wait until I have the entire sum. A neighbor gives me a nylon-strung guitar, which I sell on consignment for $140.00. Every little bit helps.

The following Saturday, Johnny plays another gig at a private party. Although there is plenty of delicious catered food, I observe Johnny drinking and not eating. It looks to me like he is chasing a high. Someone else packs up a plate of food for him and I put it aside. First I ask him if he has eaten. Then I tell him he ought to eat. . He summons me to look at his lip to see if it is bleeding. It isn’t, but I guess he has seen a chip on the edge of a beer bottle.

The next night at my house we discuss the party. I tell him about chasing the high. He tells me, “The high was from music.”

Fair enough, but then it looks like the alcohol was to keep the high going when the music was over. I like listening to Johnny play gigs, but I get anxious when I see him drinking, schmoozing, drinking some more.

“Johnny, maybe I shouldn’t come to your gigs. Then I won’t have to watch you drink.”

Johnny says, “That is unacceptable. You need to have a different standard for my drinking than other people’s drinking.”

There it is. The old “I am not like other people.”

I don’t know what to do. When Johnny drinks — when Johnny seems to be focused on drinking — I feel anxious and scared. That is my problem, really: they are my feelings. I cannot rely on Johnny to ameliorate them because his behavior triggers them for me. If I cannot absent myself when he drinks, what options do I have? I can’t always find a friend to go to the gig with me, which would at least give me someone to talk to or check in with. I can’t drink with him: I have liver damage from mononucleosis and a family history of alcoholism. Drinking gives me insomnia even if I chase a drink with a lot of water. Also, I practice Buddhism and one of the precepts is not to use substances that cloud the mind, reminding me to be mindful of the occasions when I choose to drink. I already have the habit, developed in childhood, of watching when drinkers drink and how much they drink and what they do and say when they drink.

Johnny and I talk and we listen to each other. We make efforts for each other. He does not promise not to drink or to drink less. I do not promise not to have the feelings I have. I thank him for talking and listening and spending time with me.

The next morning he has booked a 9 AM meeting at the Berkeley BART station so he comes busking with me, singing and playing on my shift. This makes it a lot more fun for me than playing solo. I hope it will make a nice change for the commuters. Many nod and smile and some say “Beautiful,” but this does not translate to tips. This disgruntles Johnny, who mutters, “If it’s beautiful, drop a dollar.”

I am surprised that Johnny and I do not do better singing together — he is so good — but I am used to the world of busking where you can sing beautifully some days and gain nothing and you can stumble and falter and stop to tune or burst into tears and the passers-by throw money in your guitar case.