Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Big Deal Day

My husband stares at me across the table. He is concentrating deeply. I see him flip from thought to thought, like thumbing through a library’s card catalog back in the day, pausing, considering, then discarding idea after idea.

“Have you decided?” I ask, my knee jiggling against the tippy cafĂ© table, making ripples in my water glass.

“It’s hard to say,” he replies, astonished at coming up empty.

I have seen this look before. I love this look. I’ve got him.

80’s rock floats in through the open window, I look over and for a minute expect to see some kid walking by with a bulky boom box perched on his shoulder. Instead I see one of those convertible Fiats, clownishly small, crammed with mutantly ripped body builders in wraparound shades.

“Remember when 80’s rock was just rock and we never listened to oldies stations?” I muse. David isn’t listening, he’s puzzling and piecing, looking for perfection.

Already having my answer, I am free to wander through Remembers. The mix-tape I made him after we officially became boyfriend/girlfriend on the Puddle Jumper path, kissing for the first time under the infinite Iowa sky. The mix-CD he made me for Valentine’s Day our first year in Chicago when we were constantly deciding which bill to pay first and banking on the timing of the U.S. Postal Service.

The mix-tape had Eric Clapton and Indigo Girls and Howard Jones.
The mix-CD had Journey and Foreigner and Shakira and Clapton.
The mix tape was labeled KIVID with the #1 and 1991 prudently penned.
The mix-CD had carefully created liner notes slipped inside a plastic purple case.

“I know what it is,” he says, eyes lighting up with discovery. “I know what it is.”

“Okay, what?” I invite. I'm more motivated by the fact that I’m closer to disclosing my answer than true interest in his.

“It would be…” He stops himself and I can tell he doesn’t like his choice, he is back-peddling, discontent.

I groan, “Come. On.”

“No no no, wait wait,” he rubs his palm against his shaved head. I know the prickliness of being on the brink of a major decision. I imagine the prickliness of his scalp against my palm and it softens my impatience at his stalling. I really shouldn’t rush him.

“It’s not like you can win or lose with your answer,” I say trying to ease his angst.

He gives me a look that says he knows what I mean but doesn’t necessarily agree. There is always a better and best to this particular query. And David likes to win. People don’t necessarily know this about him. He’s so laid back, he’s so easy going, he’s so chill, I hear year after year. All true, but he’s also fiercely focused and determined and a persistent pain in the ass when he thinks he needs to be.

“Come. ON.” I say again.

It’s not even one of the cumbersome conversations we’ve had since I married him in my mother’s wedding dress, in my parent’s back yard, under hulking fir trees. It's not about kids or no kids, about renting or buying, about faith or church or politics or environment or in-laws or art.  It’s not like we’re opting between east and west coast after sixteen years in Chicago. It’s not like we’re choosing careers or cars or even a couch.

But like everything he does, David puts his whole heart in and waits until he knows that he Knows.

Finally, he looks up at me and smiles.

It’s our 23rd wedding anniversary and it’s a big deal day. It’s also just another Sunday spent picking out our pirate names.