[I was looking for a photo on my hard drive the other day when I came across four or five short essays that were all a few years old. Some are bits that I submitted elsewhere and had rejected. Some are things I just wasn't quite ready to hit "publish" on at the time they were written.... Anyway, here is one.]
We sat at the cafe-sized table--he with his black coffee, me with my honey latte. I paid an inordinate amount of attention to my pumpkin bread as I portioned it off into bite-sized chunks. The jazz-y campus radio station the barista was playing felt too loud.
In almost ten years of marriage, it was rare that sitting in silence was ever this awkward. I felt antsy. Like a young girl swaying by the wall, waiting to be asked to dance for the first time.
I looked up at him with a half-smile, “It's hard to talk when he's not here to interrupt us, isn't it?”
The second “he” was our small son. Born almost 3 years earlier, our boy had recently entered the “age of why”.
Why is it cold in winter, mama?
Why do they sing in movies, dada?
About five times a day I wished I could cut my brain in half so that part of it could converse with my husband and the other part could answer the cute, but incessant, questions. Instead, we had half conversations―explaining as much about the nuances of our days as was possible in between answers.
Because the earth is tilting away from the sun. And I lost a case today. Thought I should have won.
Because people have to sing in Disney movies. Sold a nice diamond. Cute couple.
But today we had dropped the boy off at daycare early and it was just us and the buzzing trumpets.
The truth is, the time since the boy was born has been a new incarnation of our relationship. “I saw a baby come out of your vagina,” he jokes, but there's something serious about it too. He's talking about the physical event of the birth itself, but he's also talking about everything that's happened since.
The euphoria that we felt together at seeing our boy smile and grow and be clever.
The spatter of postpartum depression the two of them pulled me through.
The exhausted haze.
The nightmares at 4 a.m.
When you've shared all of that, flirting over your morning coffee feels like going to the prom as thirty year olds―giddy and ultimately a bit ridiculous.
But, even if the mystery has lessened, the love hasn't, so I gently try to pull him onto the floor.
“Have you been keeping up with what's going on in the Ukraine?” I reach for a current event tentatively, putting out my hand so subtlety that he could pretend I wasn't asking him to dance if he wanted.
“No, haven't had time, but I feel like I should. It seems like it's not good.” He takes my hand and puts his other one on my waist.
And before we know it, we've remembered some of the old steps and we're engrossed in conversation. The boy will rejoin us at the end of the day, and we'll probably be reduced to half-brained snippets once again―but for right now we're dancing and it feels wonderful.