Warm at night

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was sitting around the house with my wife the other day, the beautiful Tonya. We had a TV show on, or football, or something. We laughed and talked. I had an epiphany, of sorts. It was like I was outside of myself for a second, watching the scene: me on the couch in my socks and sweats, her on the other couch in her jammies. I thought, here is a person that really is here. I mean, she’s in the moment, laughing and talking with me, and this is where she wants to be. And I’m thinking, man. This is what I’ve always wanted: a wife, a partner, a best friend.

Imagine for a moment your tumultuous twenties. Some of us, through sheer luck or early maturation, found the person we both wanted and needed at a much earlier age. It never happened for me. I was neither lucky or mature. A smile, a hip shake, and copious amounts of booze were more than enough to tumble me headlong into deep relationships filled with a love that no man or woman has ever known, relationships that lasted maybe 6 months at a time. You know, the kind of relationships filled with goo goo eyes and lots of pet names like pookie poo and sweetums. The kind of relationships that often ended with tears and squealing tires and a collection of embarrassing mix tapes.

I was dumber than most, I suppose, because a few of those transient relationships actually ended  in marriage. I was thinking, man, we’re getting along: she must be the one. I had a distorted view of what love was all about. On the one hand, I grew up watching my mother deal with head games and violence. On the other hand, when we stayed at Grandpa’s farm for three glorious months every summer, I got to see stability and caring. Slathered over all that was the Hollywood version of love and how to get into it: repulsion, attraction, conflict, stress, more goo goo eyes and BAM! Soul mates. Roll credits.

I wanted to be married like my grandparents. I wanted to hang out with somebody who knew me and loved me anyway. I wanted to fall in love and then sit on the sofa and talk like old friends as soon as we moved in together.

The trouble is, that kind of intimacy doesn’t happen over night. Therein lies the true fallacy of Hollywood, and the incomplete picture of my own observations. True intimacy, the kind that my grandparents had, is born of shared triumph, and pain. It is teethed on tears and raised on joy. Hardship and strife are its constant companions, lurking like wolves just outside the warmth of the fire.

So here we sit, my lover and I, talking intimately of hardships past and joys present, of bills to be paid and gifts to be bought, of back rubs and movies and the children we’ve raised, each casual word a quiet exultation in this love that we’ve earned. Eventually we walk up the stairs and turn out the lights. I snuggle up close and smell her hair and feel her next to me. Wolves howl in the distance, but we don’t care.

The fire is warm and it will keep them away.