I was making my husband’s holiday gifts while my friend sat with me at the kitchen table, having her cigarette and tea, and wondering about how it is that after twelve years there could still be such romance and passion between my husband and me. She said, to paraphrase, you’re both so romantic. We’re affectionate but that’s different. How do you do it? You’re luck you know.
My first thought, was a. he’s bloody lucky too and b. how could we not? God, today may be today but that fist kiss could have been yesterday. I remember how he chased me through the public garden and how he whipped acorns at me like a schoolboy and how I ran and ran whipping linden berries and acorns when I could. I remember I was wearing a short lavender skirt and a white tank top and that on that day, I had forgotten to wear a bra. I remember that it was July 25th, a Monday.
It had been his birthday on Friday. We worked at the same small publisher and that he took me out to tea that afternoon. He held up his palm and pressed it against mine and just held it there. He said, Later will you come with me to the public garden? I remember how this girl, a real atavist, I really hated and who had been fired, showed up just as we were to leave and how she had a crush on him. How she overstayed her welcome. How she kissed him goodbye and he didn’t resist, but why should he? He was no more mine than I his – not yet. How everything was so tentative.
We rode the train, bumping into each other, even though we had never been so close, and how we kept meeting eyes and I kept telling myself “this is nothing” because I feared hurt, I feared abandonment, I feared he might be a guy who thought of this as a game – how many women can I make fall in love with me and then say “go screw.”
I remember the smell of his cologne, more present because of the heat and humidity of the day. I remember how we got off of the train and practically ran to the green and fresh grass of the garden. How we didn’t wait but as moment to throw these things at each other – the contact of each berry or acorn, a way of getting close: I touch you.
I ran. I tried to outrun him to no avail, yet I never quit. I slipped on the humid damp grass and fell beneath the shade of an oak tree and lay there, stunned for a minute before he came over to see if I was okay. I was. He said, “your head is bleeding” and wiped it with his finger, and then he kissed me on the forehead, and since I put up no resistance to this test kiss, he kissed me full on the mouth and how it was like no kiss I had ever experienced. It was a grown-up kiss: experienced and how I felt things I didn’t know possible and how he said, God, you’re so responsive and thought for sure I must have been putting it on.
I wasn’t. I’d had few boyfriends before and had my last since I was eighteen through 27. That doesn’t leave much room for dating, if any. So this kiss, so different and foreign, and he so foreign with his olive skin and tangle of hair that waved from his oxford and his southern Italian aqua blue eyes and hair that waved in the heat. He was Other. Different.
How to explain to my girlfriend that this never changed? That all of those feelings from that first kiss and onward have only brought us closer together. That the thrill, far from being gone, is even stronger. That all we need to is pass each other a look and we both know what it means. How we mirror each other in looks and in expression and how we did not know this until we saw the wedding photos in which we are twin-like, like any couple or any couple connected, who converses with the other a lot and who have a dynamic relationship.
The gift I was making by the way was a brief film made of separate photographs that I had morphed together with a fade effect and added as a sound track “The Air That I Breathe” by Bread. (Laugh all you want: it was and is the perfect song to this film). I was also making a beautiful leather green double photo album that tied with green silk ribbon. In each compartment was a photograph representing a period of the past year along with some photos I took (with a friend’s borrowed tripod) of me. God, he said, you’ve still got the body of a twenty-year-old. So ask me how we stay romantic and these are some of the ways.
I also leave notes in his briefcase, photographs, little gifts unexpected, kisses unexpected, and so much more. Never do I let a week go by, nor does he, without some small token (and it can be really small) of affection. And mostly, a day does not go by in which we do not have a “real” kiss, not the dry parched peck but a smack on kiss.
No doubt, we are not unique in this for surely there are other couples who are equally romantic and moved. It’s not always easy – or has it always been a bed of roses, more like a catwalk of thorns on which I had to walk every day and feel the pain. Those times are best forgotten because holding on to them only harms me. Holding onto that anger helps nobody and should I ever find myself on that walk of thorns again, then I know what I would do, love or no love, I would file immediately for divorce as already discussed with my lawyer; my just-in-case clause.
Do I expect this? No. Absolutely not, but then I would never have expected it the first time around. Can I live with the knowledge that people fuck up. You bet, because I’m not angel and although we are so close, I alone hold the trump: He doesn’t know what I did during that time either.
I don’t mean to sound mean, it’s just a fact – yes he knows me about as well as anyone can, but that’s as different thing from knowing what someone under duress is capable of. I can tell you that Goethe said, Napoleon went forth to seek virtue; when she could not be found, he sought Power. Let’s leave it at that.
We may be, we are, one of the most romantic couples I know and I’ so grateful for that, and yet, as I tend to the garden, as I tend to the house (our nest) as I polish silver bowls in which I store my bird’s nests, as I clean in my sheer slip that I use for cleaning because it’s loose and easy to clean, as I lean over and feel the weight and way of my body move forward, I am all too well aware of what can go wrong, yet I’m wise enough to know that you can’t live in the “maybe” or the “possibly.”
All things are possible and I could even be wrong about “the now’ as I write these black and white words, but for now, I choose to believe in the more romantic reality unless I see cause not to (and I do not).
I don’t know if romantic couples stay together longer. Perhaps shorter. Perhaps practical couples stay together longer – I don’t know. But what I do know is that whatever it is you have, you must enjoy it now and drink from its cup the way I took in that first kiss and will never forget the taste of him, the scent, the smells of the grass and the dirt and how I spent the rest of the afternoon as if in a daze. In some ways, I am still in that daze now and for now, I’ll stay there but with my eyes wide open.
Thanks for reading,