It's 8:30 in the morning, and it's still dark outside. I drove to work with my headlights on and my wipers set at full speed. I sipped my coffee from my ever-present Dunkin Donuts mug, the one I stole from Billy's cabinet and claimed as my own roughly a month after we started dating, and splashed my way up Route 6. Waking up in the absence of sunshine keeps me from actually waking up, it makes my shuffle my way through my routine, dragging my feet as I move from bed to kitchen to bedroom to bathroom. I meander through my shower, creep through my makeup. I stare at my closet and look at the clothes I know I'll be wearing, too lazy to even reach up and grab them. I just feel resigned. Tired. A little bit sad.
The chugging from the air conditioner we installed Tuesday night filled the room. But the air it was pushing out wasn't cold; in fact, our bedroom was hotter than the hallway just beyond our door. A compromise was reached last night when Billy got home, late, from work and came in to find me watching Sex and the City in a below-freezing room.
"Where's my snowsuit? Have you seen my gloves?" He said, pulling the knot out of his tie.
"Turn it off if you want to. It was just hot in here earlier. I don't mind if you turn it off and put the fan in the other window."
"You really love air conditioning, don't you?"
"Yes. Yes I do. But you can turn it off. I don't mind."
"We'll just turn it down, okay?" And he walked over and turned it from "Coolest," the temperature I'd set it on, to just "Cool." "How'd you sleep last night? Okay?"
"Yeah, I slept like a rock." I'd passed out at 10:00. "Except I woke up with a stiff neck. I must've fallen asleep in a weird position."
"No, it's the air conditioning," he said. "I have a stiff neck too, and I haven't had a stiff neck since we got this bed."
I discounted his statement, blaming the fact that I guzzled three strong Vodka-tonics in the sunshine the day before, which had obviously caused me to go comatose in some strange position while he watched old, recorded episodes of Two and a Half Men.
And this morning, the room was warm but the AC was still on, and my neck is stiff again. Maybe it was the AC. But I know for sure that I felt it the moment I woke and reached to slam Snooze on the alarm. My neck would only turn so far. "Fuck," I hissed, turning my whole body when just my neck wouldn't cooperate. Now, I was irritated that I was having to wake up, irritated that the radio that wakes us had somehow faded from a Lite Rock station to a grating wall of exceedingly loud static, and irritated that my neck was frozen into an awkward position. It was dark, I was hot, and even putting on the new terry-cloth sundress/robe thing I bought yesterday at TJ Maxx didn't make me happy, despite its bright, hot pink color.
Only when I was lathering my hair in the shower did I realize why my mood was so sullen. I had a strange dream last night, the details of which I don't quite recall, only that I remember thinking "It's just a dream. It's okay. Wake up. You have to wake up. It's just a dream." I know it had to do with Billy, and I know I was crying, and I remember feeling unbridled glee when I realized, in my dream, that it was, in fact, a dream. I must've been teetering on the edge between REM and lucidity, as my reaction to the dream was physical enough to feel real, but I was somehow aware that it wasn't and I needed to wake up.
When I sat, post shower, in my bed next to Billy to apply my makeup, I told him about the dream. "I had a weird dream," I said, pulling my tools from my makeup bag: Foundation sponges, eyeshadow brush, eyelash curler, powder brush, blush brush. From the corner of my eye, I saw his reaction.
An exasperated eyeroll, a sigh. "So, tell me. What did I do now?"
I let out a small, tired laugh. "I'm not sure, exactly. I'm pretty sure you broke up with me, but in some horrible, harsh way. And I kept saying 'Nah, you're not serious,' and you were like 'Yes I am. Get your shit out of my house.' And, somewhere in there - and it's the only thing I remember with any clarity - I realized 'Oh my god. It's just a dream. It's okay. Wake up.' It was just weird." I curled my eyelashes, checking the curve of my lashes in a hand mirror.
From behind me, reclined in bed, Billy's voice came: "Why are you so insecure?"
I clamped the curler on my left eye's lashes, hoping that the stinging I felt in my nose wasn't a precursor to tears. I don't know why I am. But I am. And it doesn't even make sense. "I'm not that insecure. I mean, sure I have my weak moments..."
But that's a lie. Because I am. I'm terribly insecure, and it seems incurable.
"When are you just going to understand, believe, that I love you very much?"
Here's the worst part. He shows me, every single day, how much he loves me. Not only does he tell me, but he shows me. He shows me with the air conditioner, with his phone calls and random text messages, he shows me with his presence at every turn with my health issues. He kisses me, he calls me beautiful, he spends his time with me, he talks about the future, he lets me know I'm in it.
But, still, I don't always believe.
I go through phases: There will be weeks, months, that I don't doubt, even for a second, that Billy loves me. But then, there are the days, the moments, where I just don't believe it. Not that I think he's lying, but I think everything will change. Because this is too good, he loves me too much. I don't deserve this. And my luck is sure to run out soon.
Because I've been told before about forever. I've been pumped full of Future, and Family, Marriage, Life, A House Together, Growing Old. And it never happened. And I never loved anyone the way that I love Billy. So it's terrifying. Because what if the same thing happens? What if he's full of Future now, but realizes, in months, years, that he doesn't with that with me?
There are moments, when I bring him his coffee and set it by him while he's still sleeping, that I just can't believe how lucky I am. I love him, and he loves me back. Just the same. The scales aren't tipped in anyone's favor. It's just wonderful, equal, all-that-I've-ever-wanted, love. You spend so much time wishing and hoping for something like this, and when you get it, you hope it lasts forever. I just wish I had a guarantee, something concrete, that it will.
The insecurity isn't fear that he doesn't love me as a person. It's not am I enough, am I good enough, does he love me as I am? I am enough, I'm good enough, and he does love me as I am. I'm just scared that the forever I want will fade from his mind, but not from mine. I'm still scared that, eventually, his love of freedom with trump his love for me. It's happened before.
"I do believe you," I said. I just don't ever want to lose him. He knows that.
Driving home from the hospital on Wednesday, we somehow started talking about me. "You," he said, "with your hard, steel outer-shell. And your soft, sushi-grade inside." He kissed my hand that he was holding and smiled. "I know you."
He does. He got through the little shell I fashioned, and found my sushi grade insides, the ones that give when confronted by worry, doubt. They're malleable and raw. The insides that make me push other people away before they get a chance to reject me. The insides that love so completely, so full-throttle, that they can't help but fear that there won't be much left if it falls apart. And he loves me anyway.
I know it could get old to him, loving someone like me. But he does it. Because we wants to, and because he loves me like I love him. He knows I'd give him the world if I could, and that I'd do anything for him. And he knows that ups and downs are to be expected. Just like I do.
It's been an hour since I started writing, and it's sunny out now. And I feel better. Funny how that works.