"Can I get you guys something to drink?" the hostess asked, leaning over and into us. We turned away from the sushi bar before us to face her. I looked at Billy, unsure of what he'd like.
He spoke. "Can we get a coke," he put his long fingers on his own chest, "and a pinot grigiot?" He grabbed my hand.
"Sure. Of course."
The hostess's heels clicked over the stone floor on her way to the bar. I wrapped Billy's hand in my own. "I love that," I said, leaning in to kiss the stubble on his cheek.
"That you knew I'd want a pinot without my asking."
Dating someone for a significant period of time allows you access to little pieces of them that not everyone gets to see. Sure, everyone I know knows that I love wine. But he knows that I love it with my sushi. And he knew, without my announcing it, that I'd like to indulge.
I know how he likes his coffee, I know that he likes the toilet paper over the roll, never under. I know that he likes to leave the window in the car open for a little while after we throw out our cigarettes. I know the face he makes in the mirror when he's assessing his shirt/tie combination. I know all of that.
Yesterday, he received two ties he'd ordered over the internet. He tore into the manila package with the anticipation of an eight year old on Christmas morning. He was giddy as he removed each silk accessory from its individual wrapping, letting the tie fall to its full length in front of me. "Look at this one," he purred, pulling the clear plastic off.
He surveyed their quality, he held them up to his long torso. "Whaddya think?" he asked, tilting his head to the side in mock coyness.
"It's beautiful," I said, laughing at him. "Is this what I'm like with a new pair of shoes?"
"Yes," he replied, setting the tie gingerly on the ottoman in front of us.
He hung up the ties in our closet, unsure of which one he'd wear today before we settled in for our DVR'd viewing of Lost.
Today, he called me on his way to work. After cooing good morning to one another, he asked me how my day was. I gave him my standard response of, "Eh. Fine. Yours?"
"Well, I watched some TV. Then I got ready, and now I'm driving to work. Aaaand, I'm wearing one of my new ties."
"Which one?" I asked, smiling and cradling the phone between my shoulder and my ear.
"Umm...The Ted Baker one. The one with the circles."
"Babe," he said, "how do you know me so well?"
In truth, I had a 50/50 shot to get that right. I could've just guessed and gotten lucky. But I didn't. Because of the way he tied it not once, but twice around his neck last night; a dry run for the tie. The way he surveyed it for pulls and irregularities. The way he considered the color of shirt to wear with it. He placed both new ties on the rack carefully and gingerly, but he fondled the circle tie just a hair more.
The thing is, people talk about the honeymoon phase all the time. The first few months of a relationship that find both parties blissful and enamored of one another. The period of time where they can't be torn from their lover's side, where everything that certain someone does is cute and romantic and wonderful. It's the time when butterflies tumble through your belly, each kiss is delicious and new, each spoken word of affection merely a stepping stone to love. Your stomach does somersaults while you wait for the relationship to take shape, you shave your legs every day, you buy new underwear, you wait for his call. It's hot and dizzying and wonderful...
And it lasts for about three months.
Then suddenly, you're in a relationship. And you're talking about the most mundane things over dinner. You talk about work and you share stories you've shared with one another a million times. You find yourself saying, "Did I tell you this already?" with the tone of voice that implies you know you have. You settle into a routine and you stop shaving your legs because, hey, it's winter and he loves me anyway; and you stop filling up silences with plush and giddy conversation. There is no need for filler in your lives any longer. You eat together, you wake together, you fall asleep together. You remind each other to "remember your phone" and "take your pill" and you start buying toilet paper and Tub'N'Tile cleaner and you can't remember the last time you wore a bustier.
And that honeymoon stage is great. It is. But this, this year-into-it, comfortable-with-each-other phase? It's so much better. Because along with no longer shaving every day, you no longer worry that maybe he doesn't love you like he says he does. You no longer feel like he loves you because you apply your makeup with the hand of an artist. He loves you for the skin and bones beneath it. He loves you when you wake up, your hair standing on end, with bad breath and sleep in your eyes. He loves you in your heels, but he loves you out of them, when he can wrap you in his arms and playfully call you "Shortie."
And you know one another. You aren't shy, and you aren't afraid, and you feel comfortable. And not the kind of comfortable that fosters laziness and neglect; the kind that feels like blankets and chamomile tea and a good book. He's no longer an amphetamine, he's a glass of wine and deep kiss, slow and certain.
And he is. He's my home, my favorite meal, the sweet surprise of the wine that stays on my lips after a drink. He's my safe place, my solace. I know my way around him inch-by-inch, and he's embedded with a road map of me. And I love that we still have roads to learn.
I've never been happier.