He stands, arms outstretched, holding my towel out for me to step into.
“I am your towel rack”
But are you my heated towel rack I ask him. We had left the bathroom store
Wordlessly he brings the towel to his mouth and begins blowing on it like he did when our boys lost their mittens in the Vermont winters. He would be crouched down scratchy face to shiny one. Both of his large hands would wrap around the little dimples one and he would lower his face and warm freezing fingers.
“You are my footrest”
I tell him. Just an hour ago he joined me on the love seat picking his way through dogs and tea mugs and throw blankets. He lifts my legs and slides into the newly emptied seat. Then he re sets things. Pillows as props, dogs back on laps. With one pat for the blanket and another for the dog he has become one with our snuggle. I wiggle my toe in greeting and request and his hand wraps around my foot, fingers landing in the arch and squeezing it just so.
It is a trick to wedge yourself into a small space and make it even better after your arrival. One of my sons know it. The other doesn’t.
“I can be your bra” he offers now, hands empty of the towel but still reaching towards me. I wriggle out of his grasp. It is astounding how much he loves the physical me. I know I make him laugh and talk about his fears and am a wonderful mother to his sons. But this body? I can barely look at myself. When I get dressed I pull on a wiry torture device and drape myself in soft shapeless clothes. I am never happier than I am in elastic waisted pjs hugging a pillow to my belly, it’s softness disguising mine. This man, my husband, does not see me this way. He is always reaching out. Sometimes I worry what the boys will think if they round the corner and catch him burying his head in my chest or squeezing my butt with both hands. He is stroking my arm slipping his hand up its cuff to touch my forearm with his finger. “Your skin.” He says. “I love your skin. When I look at my skin it is to notice it’s dryness, it’s ability to grow weird bumps, or it’s wrinkly-ness. My hands are the first part of my to give up any shadow of youth. Sometimes I slide the skin taut and smooth and wonder where all of the time goes.
“No bra?, I can be your blanket” He is draped over me, gently pushing me to the bed. But he can’t be my blanket. Not right now. I am usually out time keeper and I have slept on the job, we are headed out to dinner and a concert and we will be late if we don’t leave.
“You are my Uber driver” I say as we head down the staircase. He picks me up after a night out, he drops Oliver and me at the theatre, he brought me to and from jury duty. He has logged thousands of miles driving me down new and old streets. He almost never gets lost. Even when I question try to question his neat perfect navigation skills he is patient. If I can’t see the mountains I don’t know which direction we are facing. As it turns out there are two locations of our tile store each 35 minutes away from our house. One south. One north. When I drove to the store I asked them why they had changed the location of their front desk. I’m pretty sure this was not the first time they sent someone to their second location an hour south. Steve only laughed a little.
At the restaurant I don’t guess his order. Usually I do but this time we consult. We will be trading bites and my meal has already been selected. Celery root soup (shared) pork belly(shared) over green curried garbanzo bean purée (all Steve) and chicken with frisée and cauliflower gratin.
Usually Steve is my chef. We enjoy shopping and planning meals together but he is always the one to cook them. He turns on music and spins his way through the kitchen like no one is watching. Or, more like he has just the audience he wants. The eyes of his family grateful and amused as he makes something special that 2.5 of us will enjoy.
Tonight we are out though so “he is is my co critic”. I discuss service. They seated us at a four top and left all four roll ups and share plates through three visits to the table. The soup arrived quickly. They made me a custom cocktail (sadly no simple syrup) but left me guessing as to what it was when they dropped it. Steve had things to say about the beer list. This is a fantastic restaurant. He was surprised to see “pug Ryan’s” from a Dillon on the list. “It’s not even the best choice in Dillon,” he days of the town with two breweries. From Vermont they feature Magic Hat number 9. He does not need to comment. “I guess I’ll have wine” he tells me. It has come to this.
I don’t mean to slam Rioja, the food was fantastic. The decor wonderful and apparently the wine list was great. This time though John seemed more interested with the lady with the hip haircut at the lounge table next to ours. So our service didn’t live up to the rest of it. Plus, it is fun to critique, at least if we do it quietly and we don’t ruin our own experience looking for flaws.
Then coffee, decaf for me. “Decaf” I told John. “Decaf…coffee?” He asked me, confused. Yes… I answered also confused. When he left the table I asked if ordering “decaf” is out of date. I am old now. He didn’t think so, reaching out to cover my wrinkled hand in his strong one.
We have the inevitable confusion over what to tip the valet. $2 seems to little $20 too high. Where are all the fives and tens at tipping time? We are headed to the concert. Edie Brickell and the not so new bohemians. Because bladders shrink with age, and because, decaf, we head to the men’s and women’s lounge. Afterward I am a bit braggy. “Our lounge had an ante room, then a sitting room and THEN the toilets.” “Yes,” he tells me. “But did your lounge have a 70 year old cowboy change into his tie died Edie Brickell Shirt?” Why no. No it didn’t.
“He is my usher.” We walk down the aisle with his hand gently in the small of my back.Steve is doing his super loud concert clap and I am plugging my neighboring ear. “I want her to hear it up there” he says. It is an oddly intimate concert. The room is a third full and people are moving forward like toddlers at story time. As she sings mostly new songs she is giving us their backgrounds. Here lyrics are less tight than those first albums. She is riffing. “Sometimes I feel the darkness. But it comes and goes quickly. Like a song” Her voice is following her words. Listing up as her mood does. I have been looking at Steve who is looking at me more than the stage. His eyes are crinkled in the corner. Our hands together on his lap. He doesn’t know the words so I whisper my favorite lines to him. “I don’t lie…I exaggerate.” I have to cross his body to whisper in his good ear and he is holding onto me lightly.
“He is my tuck in service” At 9:30 he tells me that the ratio of my yawns to songs have a correlation. This is him giving me permission to leave anytime. We sit through a few more new ones. I am trying to pick out good lines but I am tired now so we head home.
“He is my remote control” I think, as I hand it over. We are in bed after our night out. Oliver has reported on the PTSA meeting we have missed while out at the concert. Leo is so tired that when he goes to lay his head on the table he guesses the height incorrectly and it thuds to the surface and make me wonder whether we should wake him at night to ensure he is not concussed. “Anything but football” he tells me” So he lets me pick. Driving the control as well as he drives the car and we settle in to end our 5,468 days together. 15 years, one week early.
But mostly …
He is my heart, beating, somehow, outside of my body.