This is Marriage (2)
Sometimes, when walking to dinner in our neighborhood together, I like to imagine we are Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, two young, alluring people with sharp tongues and bright ideas who spend hours just walking around and talking about the greatest things in life– philosophy, passion, love, sex, books, travel, food. We wander slowly, treading carefully down cobble stone streets, using our hands to fill out our sentences. We ping-pong ideas off one another, and almost never run out of things to say. It’s easier to picture us like this when we’re strolling by tiny sidewalk cafes and charming fruit stands because our town in Queens looks vaguely European that way. It becomes a challenge when passing Dunkin’ Donuts or the auto body shop just off the feeder road.
These have been my favorite moments of the last 14 years, the length of time it’s taken us to go from coworkers to friends to partners to spouses. We started our walks on lunch breaks, two kids fairly low on the totem pole escaping their cubicles to go play outside. We’d walk all the way down from 23rd to 14th Street, pointing out women we knew were models and artfully dodging people from Greenpeace or Planned Parenthood asking for money or overpriced midtown salons trying to sell us a full day of beauty. We’d grab a bowl of noodles, plop ourselves on a park bench in Union Square and watch the world go by.
We never go out to lunch together now. Instead, I pack sensible combinations of protein, carbs and fat in our small shared kitchen and send you out into the world with a bag full of Tupperware. Now we take walks in search of brunch and dinner and always ice cream. And even if the meal isn’t memorable, the walk usually is because the setting keeps changing, but you are my constant. I get to admire your profile and you always hold my hand. Palm folded into palm– never fingers intertwined–because according to you, lacing fingers is for teenagers and puppy love and we are beyond all that.
When we first started dating we’d have 5-hour phone marathons where we’d yammer on and on about everything under the sun until we both passed out from exhaustion. A friend of yours said talking like that would never last, and he was right. There isn’t much to catch each other up on now; we share a home and a life, and as a result, our anecdotes.
Sometimes it feels like we’re going to run out of new things to say, and then one of us tells a story the other one has never heard before, and we both feel giddy with excitement. You’ll tell me about the kid who grew up on your block or the time you tried to impress a girl by speaking your shared native language, or I’ll share a memory that involved falling down or running into things when I wasn’t paying attention.
I’ll remind myself to be a better wife and a kinder person and encourage you to keep talking about what it is you do for a living, which, on a cognitive level is difficult for me to understand.
I’ll think about how lucky I am to create more history with someone as funny and sweet as you, and you’ll look at me with your head cocked slightly to the right with the corners of your mouth turned up and paint the words I love you with the curves of your face.
Last night when we walked to dinner we talked about growing older, not just the physical act of it, but what it must feel like to look in the mirror and see a wise old face that doesn’t quite match up with the young, dumb fool you feel like on the inside. We talked about Facebook and social media, and the kids who are growing up on it, and how one day they’ll be able to look back at nearly every day of their childhood and catch a glimpse of it, like one of those flip books where you turn the pages a mile a minute so it looks like the change happened while you blinked. Then I asked if you thought my feet were getting fat. There is room for all of it.
I doubt the way we talk to each other is anything extraordinary, but sometimes it feels that way. I doubt I love my husband more than anyone else loves theirs, but sometimes I think that I might. Sometimes it feels like we’re two characters in a movie, swapping thoughts and ideas and stories and there is something really romantic about all of it. Sometimes I think I should stop to write it all down, that these everyday conversations with my husband are not banal or mundane, but poignant and memorable.
And then it occurs to me that the two of us are probably not extraordinary at all, that this must be what everyone thinks after having a really good talk with someone they love.