I love my husband.
I don’t need Hallmark to make me think of it. I think of it every single day. Whether I am with him, or away from him. He’s a part of me, and it’s a part of me I love.
I often reflect on how I knew he was “the guy”. I can’t say I knew it the moment I saw him. In fact, I was looking for something different. I was looking for a fire fighter. The ones on the Chippendales calendars. I saw a troop of them walking into Macy’s together one day to rescue a little old lady whose oxygen tank had run out. I watched them talk to her…gently. Calm and sweet. Like she was their own grandma. And I remember thinking, “I gotta get me one of those.”
A co-worker of mine was engaged to a firefighter, so I pleaded with her to find a way to get me invited to their fire fighter parties. And she did.
The first one was a private birthday party, being held at a small local bar, closed to the public for this occasion. I didn’t know the birthday boy, but no matter. It would be, as they say, a “target rich environment”.
I arrived on time. Maybe too eager, but I was. When I walked in, the party had started and people were milling about. As I searched for a sign of my friends, I noticed a guy sitting at the bar in a baseball uniform nursing a beer.
“Looking for someone?” he offered.
“Yes. I’m meeting friends here, but I don’t think they’ve arrived.” I smiled and began to move toward the door.
“Who are your friends?”
“Casey and Rosanna. Do you know them?”
He laughed, “Sure! I’ve known Casey since kindergarten. They’re still at a barbecue at his captain’s house. Could I buy you a beer while you wait?”
This was not a firefighter, and I didn’t want to get tied up with him. “No thanks. I’ve got some errands to run.”
“No, you don’t. You just don’t want to talk to me.” he said with a knowing chuckle. I could sense he was baiting me. I mean, he was right, but that wasn’t the point.
“No, really. I do.” I said crisply.
“Noooo, you don’t.” he chuckled and went back to his beer.
What a jerk. Calling me a liar. Where does he get off? “Look: I’ll be back later. If you’re still here, I’ll let you buy me a beer.”
“Nah. You’re not coming back.”
“Yes I will.” But only because I want to meet fire fighters.
I got in my car, drove across the street, and parked where I could watch people arriving. I would’ve run errands, but I really didn’t have any to run. Anyway, who cares if that guy caught me in a lie.
I sat there for a good 30 minutes. There had been some cars coming and going, but I wasn’t sure if they were entering the bar. And there was another entrance to the place that I couldn’t see. Hmmmm. Surely they’d arrived by now.
I’m goin’ in. (Not the most patient person in the world. Especially when it come to fire fighters.)
In I went. Groundhog Day. Same guy nursing a new beer. No Rosana. No Casey.
“You came back!” he slurred.
Oh, jeez. Now I can’t leave. I smiled weakly. He noticed. But it didn’t bother him. “Awww, c’mon. I get to buy you a beer now.”
“Yes, you do.” And I reluctantly settled on the stool next to him.
Small talk ensued, about how I knew Casey, where I worked. It was pleasant enough. His name was John. He wasn’t pushy or flirtatious at all. Bits of information began to form an intriguing – and almost unbelievable of this slightly buzzed softball player. He’d had a good day at the track. A gambler. He had been a tank commander in the Army. A war monger. And he majored in fine arts. Wait, what? At one point, when I admitted I really didn’t know what “lithography” meant, he described the process in detail – almost lovingly – about ink and rocks and I-don’t-know-what… And I realized I was totally relaxed listening to him. He wasn’t big on eye contact. That meant I could study him without giving him the wrong idea. He laughed easily. A touch self-deprecating, (which I find appealing) but confident in his facts. And he had a lot of facts. I realized that although he was clearly buzzed, he was intelligent and he seemed….somehow….sound. Interesting.
Now that I had begun to find this guy interesting, it became off-putting that he wouldn’t really look at me. What’s up with that? I thought. He’s showing no interest in me at all. Heck, I should be somewhat interesting to a half-drunk softball player.
Casey and Rosanna arrived. “Hey! You’ve met John! Sorry we’re late!” and I began to try to mix a bit. I lost track of John, although I could see him over there, still sitting in the same spot. I found it disturbing that he never looked back at me. No interest. Oh well.
And I found it difficult to start a conversation with those fire fighters. I’m not a flirt, and I’m not a knockout, so I shouldn’t expect much. But somehow I’d imagined they had the capacity to approach nice women and talk to them gently and sweetly. Like they talked to that little old lady at Macy’s. Maybe I needed an empty oxygen tank to make that happen. I considered it.
John finally approached our group and announced he had a game. Casey and Rosanna said they’d come and watch him play. She turned to me and said, “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah, I need to go.”
“Do you want to come with us to the game?”
It was right across the street from my apartment. A perfect excuse.
“Uhhh, sure. It’s so close. Why not?” I actually wanted to. It would give John a chance to show some interest in me. Which he should.
So we went. John was deemed too buzzed to play, so he was relegated to coaching third base. We cheered for him anyway. He seemed amused. And his wry smile showed he was pleasantly surprised to see I had come.
After that I didn’t see him for many weeks. I learned later he had asked Rosanna for my phone number and she refused. “I work with her, Johnny. I am not getting in the middle of that.”
My roommate, Mette, and I were taking a trip to Europe together. As single girls will do, we threw a party for ourselves. Bon Voyage. We asked Rosanna to bring a supply of fire fighters with her. She did. And John. The fire fighters were duds. Cute, but duds. John was gathering dirty margarita glasses and offering to run to the store for supplies. A friend of mine was working in the kitchen with me, and she asked, “Who is that guy?” John had just brought in another load of dirty glasses.
“Oh, that’s John. He’s a friend of Rosanna’s.”
“Oh. He’d be a nice boy for you.”
And of all the things I love about John, one of the most adorable is that shy response to eye contact I’d noticed when I first met him. It’s as though his very soul is right below the surface, and if you look in those eyes a moment more, they will reveal his whole, vulnerable self.