Four years isn’t a long time. It was the length of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, high school, and college (for a lot of people, anyway). Four years span the time between eclipses and leap years and Olympics. It’s not a longevity thing, but a lot can happen. For me, four years ago marks the night I met the man who is now my life partner. Actually, I’m pretty sure he was that to me that very night. I’d say we just didn’t know it yet, but I think we both did within moments. Certainly within hours.
It’s traditional to use the wedding anniversary as the milestone in a relationship. And of course we celebrate that, too (after all, there’s never a bad time to split a bottle of wine and order dessert that may very well be on the house). After all, our wedding was, by both our definitions, perfect. Still, no amount of skewered meat or ideal Stones’ songs or lavender hydrangea petals will ever feel as epic as the night I first saw Thomas.
I only saw him for a moment–a spark of time like when you run your thumb over the wheel of a lighter and there’s a not-quite-lit flash of heat against your flesh, something I did a lot of back then. You know how some people say they have this love at first sight thing and they cannot physically force themselves to avert their eyes? Well, because I was scared and shy and did not want to be in love, I did the exact opposite. I refused to look at him. When he spoke of trips to J Clyde, I stared intently into my cup of Sangria as if the chunks of fruit floating inside would tell my future. Tea leaves for those who want to get wasted, some Friday night fortune telling. I glanced at my fingernails and the thin, beige carpet beneath me, at the dirty spots of my jeans and those others who were in the room as if they were the most fascinating people I’d ever met. And I thought he would never notice, anyway, so none of it–the seemingly unabashed rudeness–mattered much to me.
I can’t remember if it was during the card game (Kings) or the Cinemax softcore porn or some combination of the two when I felt ok to look over at him. He, the boy in the Black Crowes t-shirt with the glossy dark hair and the sunspot in his eye. I could tell you what the shitty porno was like (random lesbian phone sex incorporating the oh-so-clever use of a Bluetooth) and that the sangria wasn’t quite done marinating so it tasted strongly of Brandy, but I can’t say for certain the exact second I managed to force my eyes on him. What I do know is that when that brave moment arrived, I was a goner.
I don’t know that anyone would ever believe me, but I stumbled to my car with half-opened eyes at 6am only because I could no longer hold myself up. Not drunk (though undoubtedly inebriated by this newfound affection). I remember when he said that my pretty eyelids were heavy that I swore I imagined it and didn’t want to ask if I had heard him correctly for fear that it was an illusion brought on by no sleep. I remember wanting him to invite me to his room to sleep (or not sleep, I didn’t care at that point), but not wanting to ruin what I felt in the deepest part of my stomach was going to be the most important encounter of my life. That morning, my mouth tasted faintly of cigarettes and strong sangria (no kisses, though God, I had wished for that), and I had parked my car further away from the condo entrance than I had intended. That walk down the cement steps with the sun and the summer heat breaking around me was like being baptized in light. I fumbled with my keys and when I finally reached the solitude of my car, I laughed like I hadn’t laughed in years. The kind of cackle that forces its way out of your gut and becomes a sort of sheep’s bleat. The kind that goes on for so long that it goes totally silent even though your mouth is a gaping hole with the corners twisted upward. And once I composed myself, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Disbelief. It had happened to me and I didn’t even want to look at the guy when the night began.
Thomas often references The Godfather when he tells the story about how we met. He talks about the lightning bolt–that cackowh of being struck where you stand when you never saw it coming. That was it for us. It’s been that way a hundred times over, too. I’m not idealistic enough to believe that love at first sight is always just that or that it always lasts. However, I find myself struck over and over again. Sometimes it’s the glance over at my from the fridge when he’s topping my drink off or the instance I know that he knows that I don’t really hate something despite my finest Hoffman impression about that thing (just this week I swore I hated Makarios simply because I didn’t feel like going. We went the next day and I loved it. Typical.). He says he has a special translation system that he has meticulously developed over the last four years. That feeling of being known–of being all figured out–should maybe scare the shit out of me, but I adore it. It’s knowing that it will help him sleep when I finally come to bed and throw an arm or leg over him or realizing that he doesn’t nervously blink around me like he used to. And he’s the kind of man who doesn’t care if I wear heels and tower over him–he, in fact, thinks it’s pretty funny since it’s just me living out the whole bossypants metaphor of looking down on everything when I can. He remembered on one of our first dates that I preferred plastic cutlery to metal and requested it for me without thinking twice about what a pain in the ass it was. That was probably the second time I fell in love with him (as if the first time weren’t life-changing enough). We aren’t perfect. We’re neurotic and we’ve learned secrets about each other that only sharing a tiny house with a single bathroom can drag out. And shit has gotten downright chick-crawling-out-the-television-on-The-Ring ugly from time to time (or pretty much every day of the first three months we lived together). But man, it’s been a hell of a trip, and I’m ready to see where it goes next.
So four years isn’t even the length of a respectable celebrity marriage. But it’s been enough to alter the entire course of my existence. It’s taken me from simply existing to absolutely thriving, from just being in the world to believing that things really do work out. I have spent road trips and sleepless nights and fabulous meals and dances to bands neither of us liked and spilled words and wine and dreams and guts with this man. He, the boy in the Black Crowes t-shirt with the glossy dark hair and the sunspot in his eye, has become in four years to me what I never even dared entertain in the most fantastical, dreamy side of mind–a best friend, a confidante, a husband, a counterpart, and my partner through this life.