"This whole moving in together is a big deal for me," I said, poking at our brownie cake with caramel topping and ice cream.
"You've been living with me for eight months. Ever since our second date." His voice said It's not so big a deal. He took a spoonful of ice cream.
"Yes, but I still had my own place. It was a technicality, yes, but it was still there. Me giving that up is a big deal for me." He licked his spoon clean and dove back into our plate. He didn't say anything. So I continued. "You are talking to a girl who said she would never live with a guy. Never."
"Again," he said, pointing at me with his spoon, "you've been living with me for eight months."
"Yeah, and even that was a big deal for me." He cast a sideways glance my way. "Seriously. It was. I was in a relationship for four years and never even entertained the notion of moving in with him."
"Oh, yeah? Well I vowed to never, never, let a girl move in with me again. So that's a big deal."
His profession of having lived with girls before sucked the wind out of my sails. So I tried to ignore it. "But it's a bigger deal to me because this was a vow I've made and stuck to for my whole life, not after I tried something and it didn't work out."
"That's why it's a bigger deal to me. Because it didn't work out and I vowed to never let it happen again."
I couldn't get past the thought of him living with someone. "How many girls have you had living with you?" Curiosity always gets the best of me.
He thought for a minute, looked up at the hardwood ceiling above our heads and squinted, thinking back. "Uh...Twice?" Some more thinking. "Yeah. Twice."
"Twice?" I wasn't aware he'd tried it twice. "Well, see. It's old hat to you." I tried to hide how much I didn't like that I know knew he'd tried it twice.
"But both times didn't last over, like, two months. So you're already beating them. You've been living with me four times longer and it's still wonderful." Perhaps he knew how I was feeling.
The thing was, I didn't want to know he'd tried living with someone twice before. It stole my thunder, it made me feel like his attempt with me was just another go round, where mine was a giant step in his direction. I was looking for him to confirm the seriousness of our decision. That even though I'd been staying there, actually moving in was another realm altogether. But, instead, I got the truth of his past.
We try not to talk too much about our histories. I've made that mistake before, asking question after question about ex girlfriends and their roles in my partner's life. And all it ever did was wear down what I thought of us. Events in our shared life suddenly didn't seem as profound anymore, because he'd already done that with his ex. There's novelty lost in the relationship you're creating, where you'd like to imagine that you're sharing a bunch of firsts - Even though you know neither of you are virginal in many aspects, you can at least fantasize that you're sharing new experiences. And asking about exes only reminds you that you're not. You can't even pretend. So I don't ask Billy about his past relationships. I don't want to know. Best to leave them mysteries and believe that everything we do is only ours.
So his sudden confession that he'd tried living with someone twice before knocked me back. My last boyfriend lived with his girlfriend before me, and I never quite felt like I belonged in his house as a result. At least, with Billy, I knew no one had lived in this house with him. Our bedroom was still ours.
"Yeah, well, I'm telling you, mine is a bigger deal. Four years," I said, holding up four fingers in his face, to illustrate my point, "and I never even kept pants there. And, anyway, I didn't move into your house on the second date. I didn't start keeping stuff there until much later."
"Oh, you kept stuff there."
"Earrings," he said, his tone jokingly accusatory. "On the night stand."
"But that was accidental," I explained.
He laughed. "No, it was on purpose. You were marking your territory." He shook his finger at me, grinning while he spoke.
"No I wasn't."
"Yes you were. Just admit it."
"I'd admit it. If it were true."
It's funny how differently men and women view things. I did leave my earrings on his night stand, but only because I left his house every morning with barely enough time to get to my house and get ready for work on time. I always picked them up the next day. I could see why he thought that, but if I'd been thinking about marking my territory, I'd have done something less obvious. I'd leave panties in the bottom of the sheets, tampon wrappers in the garbage, perfume on the pillow: Things only women notice. Earrings are too obvious.
And now there's no denying a woman's presence.
And, regardless of how many times he's tried it before, regardless of how I haven't, it doesn't make it any less dramatic. No matter how I look at it.
I just have to remember that. And think of The Dresser of Strength.