I am about to get mushy. I’m just warning you. Ready? Ok.
This past weekend Nordic Boy and I celebrated our 97 billionth anniversary. See, we were barely out of puberty when we met each other and started our shared partnership of zany hijinks so when we say we want to grow old together, hell, we are well on our merry way compared to where we started up. Because of the way in which we met and the years following that and all the aforementioned hijinks that have ensued, plus also we are lazy, we only celebrate one anniversary. The day we met. It’s just easier. Plus it also makes sense in a poetical romantical sort of way because we were joined at the hip since the day we laid eyes on each other, even though there were times early on when we weren’t dating.
I was out to dinner with a bunch of friends last week, and one of them asked another one of them the story of how they met their partner. She told us the story, and when probed for more detail, she said that there were things that she just couldn’t remember any more, because she and her husband had met around 35 years ago. Although Nordic Boy and I have not been together for 35 years, I could relate to that. Part of why we don’t celebrate other milestones is that it’s hard to remember them all. Also, when you’ve been together for a really long time, and seen each other through so many ups and downs, it’s hard to know when things actually start. When did we start to love each other? The first time we said so? The first time we laughed really hard together? When we decided to move in? It’s all such a long continuum that when we want to pinpoint a day to commemorate, it’s not so easy. It’s not just one day that needs commemorating. It’s all the days. And when did all the days start? The day we met.
During that same dinner with friends, one of them asked me if, when I first met Nordic Boy, did I “just know.” This is something that gets asked to couples a lot, at least from what I see. “Did you just know?” Sometimes I say yes to that question, and sometimes I say no. Not because I am a filthy liar, but because that question seems kind of unanswerable to me. Trying to put myself into the frame of mind of my 19-year-old self, meeting Nordic Boy for the first time- kind of impossible. On the one hand, when I met him I was kind of sprung and totally infatuated in a way that I had never been before or since. On the other hand, did I think- the moment we met- that we would still be yukking it up almost 2 decades later? No, I didn’t. I wasn’t thinking about decades then. I couldn’t see past lunch then. Still can’t, to be honest.
About a year after me and that dude got acquainted, I was going through a rough patch in my life. Actually, it was more like a war zone. I had lots of bad relationships- boys, friends, family, school, work, money- plus other drama that is way too complicated and way too ugly to get into now, but let’s just say that pretty much any part of my life that you could name was falling apart. I felt really alone a lot of the time, and was trying to put on a brave face (because hi, have you met me?) but really everything was a royal pain in the bootango and there was no getting around that fact. I had gotten to a place where things that shouldn’t become normalized totally were. I cried a lot. I yelled at my then boyfriend a lot (not Nordic Boy, I was dating this other clown because I was a first class dumb ass), and he yelled at me. I slept a lot because that’s what I do when I am depressed. I stopped talking to my friends, except for Nordic Boy who would not leave me alone, because that’s what he is good at: not leaving me alone. Not just me, either. That guy is the Prime Minister of Being There. Ask any of his peeps.
One day during this period, I went to work, totally dragging my ass. I was a tired worn out grumpypants. I held it together for work (again, hi, have you met me?) but inside I was a mess. When I think back I can’t even remember the specifics of what particular sadness was happening that day, but I wasn’t in good shape. After work (Nordic Boy and I worked for the same theater company) he asked me if I wanted to go get something to eat. We went to some sad fast food restaurant (ok fine I do remember that it was Taco Bell) and I bought my forty-nine cent burrito and ate it pretty much in silence. “I just need a minute,” I remember saying to him. So we sat, and chewed, and everything was silent, but ok. Things between us, even then, rarely got tense. We just ate.
After we were done, we climbed into his ratty old truck and headed toward my apartment where I had big plans to put my head under the covers and not get out until the next day. It was a sunny summer evening, and I looked out the window and didn’t see any of it. It took me a few minutes to realize that we weren’t going to my apartment at all. I snapped out of it when I saw that Nordic Boy had parked us at a park.
He got out of the truck, and so did I. I don’t remember if anything was said. I want to say that he grabbed my hand but to tell you the truth I can’t say for sure if he did. We walked in the direction of one of those mammoth playground structures, which was mostly empty at that time of the evening. When we got there, Nordic Boy started climbing. So did I. I don’t know how long it took, but it didn’t seem like long before we had played on every part of that structure. We got on the swings and swung as high as we could and then jumped off. We ran up ladders and down slides. We swung by our arms across vertical ladders. We leaped off one side and skipped up another. We ran around, and ran some more. We laughed that sort of goofy little kid laugh, where you are so out of breath that you can barely get your guffaw out. He started it, and I couldn’t help but join in. There was the part of me- that inner 14-year-old that we all have inside of us- that wanted to cross my arms and sulk and not be moved. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play.
We ran around like this for at least an hour, maybe more. Then we sat on the grass and talked and made silly jokes. He never asked me what had been wrong earlier. I never said either.
We got back in the truck after the sun went down, and he took me home. Before I got out of the truck, he said something that I will never forget, and I still think about often. I said “thanks, that was fun.” And he said, in that understated, non-dramatic way that he has, as if he is talking about the weather: “I just wanted you to remember who you are. See you tomorrow.” And I felt stunned by this, and I didn’t say anything back, and I got out of the truck, and I went home.
Just like that. Off the cuff he was, easy peasy, see you tomorrow.
I just wanted you to remember who you are.
I don’t know the details of the first conversation we ever had. I don’t remember the first I love yous exchanged, exactly. I don’t remember what we said any time we made formal committments to each other in any way. But I remember that sentence, on an ordinary day, in a year that I’m not 100% sure I can identify. It didn’t have to do with us making a promise. It didn’t have to do with the future. But it was significant. I’ve never forgotten it. And it’s funny, the act of reminding me who I was? Made me see who he was too.