Dim lighting. A corner table. Secluded.
On the tenth anniversary of our wedding we are as alone as a couple can be in a trendy restaurant.
The place is hopping with young couples, older couples, people from the neighborhood just stopping in for a nightcap.
Hair done, make-up on, new clothes -- that have been hanging in my closet forever, waiting patiently for this moment -- all conspire to make me appear as if I belong.
Yet, I can't help but feel out of place.
Were the couples flanking our table to overhear our conversation, they'd have been treated to the following inanity:
“Is this the wood year?”
“Nope. That's the fifth anniversary. Ten is tin.”
“Aw, shucks. And here I am getting you new logs for the wood stove.”
“That's fine. I got you foil. I just had to eat the candy that was inside of it first.”
“That's love for you.”
To anyone who couldn't help but overhear that, or perhaps the one about a trefoil plant and an unfortunate skin reaction, let me be the first to apologize.
We need to work on controlling the volume of our voices. Also … we don't get out much.
It's not as if we are strangers to the pleasures of dinning out. But truth be told, we're more accustomed to places that offer crayons with their butcher paper table coverings … even when we have the luxury of a babysitter.
But special occasions warrant a certain amount of discomfort; a certain amount of mispronouncing menu items and over-indulging in high-caloric desserts.
They warrant something, anyway.
Ten years, two children, three dogs (two in dog heaven), countless fish (in fish heaven) and a cat with seven lives left.
Ten years, two houses, two kids to get onto the school bus each morning and off of the school bus each afternoon.
Ten years, no telling how many fights, and, luckily, an equal or greater number of well-meant apologies.
Ten years of recirculating ideas that ocassionally lead to a revelation but mostly lead to the feeling of brick wall meeting head.
Oddly, ten years feels like an accomplishment as equally as it feels like a stitch in time.
He pulls out a worn picture from his wallet. And there I am, dog-eared and faded, smiling the smile of someone who has yet to learn the true meaning of the term: “Sleeps Like a Baby.”
I don't have a picture to of him show. My purse is filled with plastic toys scooped off the floor in a last-minute, The-Babysitter's-Coming and We-Don't-Want-Her-To-Think-We're-Hopeless-Slobs kind of way. The wallet is jammed with cash receipts and plastic cards I've long stopped using.
There's no room for anything more.
Sometimes I think marriage feels like this.
As it goes on, you get the feeling that there's no room for anything more.
Not that you've outgrown it, just that maybe the fit is a little more snug than is comfortable.
The candle flickers as we look over the table at one another. We haven't really talked about us since we sat down. We haven't marveled at the life we've made together and that will be waiting for us when we get home. We don't really need to. Like a current, it's always there carrying us along.
In a moment someone will arrive at our table bearing drinks: A gooey blender variety for him, something pale and nondescript for me. The servers always try to put his pretty concoction at my place setting.
He'll take a sip. I'll take a sip.
And then we'll switch them.
It doesn't hurt to, once in a while, taste how the other half lives.