We excused ourselves from the conversation and headed outside. From behind us, I heard her talking about her three week trip through Europe. She rattled off the countries she visited while I shimmied into my coat. I was jealous.
We pushed open the heavy door and stood out on the wrap around deck, a handful of other smokers peppered around the yard. He lit cigarettes for the both of us, passed me one. I took it and inhaled. I could hear the party inside.
“I want to go to Europe,” I said, mid-exhale.
“Huh?” Billy squinted against the afternoon sunshine and looked at me.
“I’d really like to go to Europe.”
“Oh,” he said with wide eyes. “Belize just isn’t good enough for you, is it?” His mock anger made me giggle.
“No, it’s not that,” I slapped him playfully on his arm. “I can’t wait to go to Belize.”
“But you want to go to Europe.” He was still playing up indignation, his sarcasm making me into the ungrateful girlfriend.
I knew what I wanted to say. Dare I? Dare I make reference to something more than a few months away…? “Maybe next year.” I said it quickly and matter-of-factly, and then I looked off into the distance, hoping to avoid eye contact for at least a few minutes.
“Oooh,” his smile broke through his feigned anger of seconds before, and he looked at me through slit eyes. “Next year, huh?” He took a long, contemplative drag of his Marlboro Medium.
What he said at this point is disputable.
I say he said something like “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” and he says it was…I don’t know, something else. Either way, whatever he said was something like that and followed with laughter. But he didn’t say “Haha! Just kidding!” He left it alone.
We went back into the party, ate and drank our way through three baby shower games and two hours, then got in the car and headed home. Hours after settling in to watch some On Demand Weeds, I brought it up again.
From my side of the bed, while staring at the credits rolling over the screen, I said “I can’t believe you said ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself.’” From the corner of my eye, I saw him roll his head toward me.
“Earlier. When I said ‘Next year,” and you said ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself.’”
“I don’t think I said that.”
“Well, you said something like that.”
“Baby,” he turned so that his whole body faced me, “are you still thinking about that? Has that been weighing on your mind?”
“Yeah,” I sheepishly admitted. “It has.”
“Because it’s the first time I’ve ever referenced something that far away. And I don’t know if, maybe, it freaks you out.”
“Why would that freak me out?” His confusion was evident.
“Because we never talk about…the…future.”
“I don’t even talk about my future.”
It’s true. It’s not like he talks about what he’s going to do a year from now while leaving me out of it. He doesn’t bring it up, period. So I just sort of thought that talking about anything more than a few months away was, well, off limits.
“And, anyway, I was being sarcastic. We joke with each other all the time…”
“I know. But I’ve never brought it up before. So it was, like, uncharted territory. And I kind of went out on a limb by referencing our future. And I was kind of met with a ‘no.’ In my mind, anyway. I didn’t know how to take your response because we’ve never talked about that before.”
He chuckled at me. “I don’t know how you women survive if your brains really work like that.” He shook his head, and I gave him a shove. “Baby, of course it doesn’t freak me out. Why would it?”
“I don’t know.”
But the truth was, I thought it would. Because, despite the fact that my presence is assumed at all of his family functions and that he spends every second of his free time with me, I worry that one day he’ll just wake up bored with me.
Because even though we always have a great time together, even though we laugh constantly and I still have an enormous crush on him, my mind is programmed to believe that he’s liable to leave at any second. It’s nothing that he does or doesn’t do that makes me think that way. It’s just me.
He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. “What did I tell you? Whenever you start feeling this way, whenever you doubt or worry, what are you supposed to do?”
I sighed, fighting at the smile threatening to break out. I was in pouting mode. I couldn’t afford a giggle right now. I mumbled the answer into his arm.
“No,” he protested firmly. “Say it so I can hear it.” My laughter was full-throttle now.
“Think about the Dresser of Strength,” I whined, under duress.
“Yes. Behold the Dresser of Strength,” and he pointed to the referenced dresser.
It sits in the corner of the room, where the TV stands right next to a jungle of my earrings and rings, perfumes and other little personal grooming odds and ends. Inside of it reside all of my foldable clothes – sweaters, underwear, jeans, t-shirts, gym clothes. He brought it home one day for no reason, other than to say “You have a place to keep all your clothes here now.” And, after getting my own dresser, I was given half of the closet.
And with that, I stopped keeping my clothes in an overnight bag. In fact, I all but retired that overnight bag and started keeping a decent amount of clothes there. Because he wanted me to. And now he uses it to remind me that he did, does, want me there. Because he got the dresser especially for me, especially for my clothes. And, one day, when I was questioning whether or not he really wanted me there all the time (God, I feel sorry for him. I do question a lot.), he pointed to the dresser and asked “If that doesn’t say I want you here, what does?” Touché. Point conceded. “In fact,” he continued, “from this point on, that shall be referred to as The Dresser of Strength. And when you’re feeling a little weak, you can just look at it and be reminded.” He was being silly, but it stuck.
“Do you not understand the significance of the purchase of the Dresser of Strength?” he said last night, after making me say it out loud.
“No,” I grinned. “Explain it to me.”
“Well, what’s the point of having a Dresser of Strength if I have to explain it?” he said, mock frustration in voice.
“It’s here because I want you here. And we can talk about the future; it doesn't freak me out, and it doesn't bother me. I wouldn’t have bought that thing if I didn’t want you here.” He kissed me on the forehead and got up to leave the room. “Freak,” he added for good measure. He shut the door on our laughter.
I love that man.