GB is about 10 seconds from sleeping. When I tap his shoulder he braces himself because he knows how chatty I can be late at night.
“Do you know what we should do tomorrow?” I ask.
He closes his eyes again and mumbles a sleepy, “Hmmmm?”
“We should do all the things I’ve planned…for your surprise.”
He props up on one arm. “What surprise?”
“SC is going to babysit. He’ll hang out here while we have a nice little weekend for ourselves in Cincinnati.”
“Cincinnati?” His stoic face betrays a flash of confusion.
“Just a quick trip. I was trying to think of the kind of things you’d want to do this weekend if you could plan it yourself, so I had to think like a guy. Here’s what I came up with:
- Sleep in.
- Watch the Buckeye game from start to finish, in a room with a big-screen TV. No interruptions.
- Take a nap.
- Eat a giant lobster/steak combo at the best restaurant in town.
- Drink Kentucky bourbon.
Everything’s booked. We leave at 1PM.”
He smiles and says, “Ok.” And in 10 seconds, he’s snoozing.
I’ve always wanted to do this: Plan a weekend trip and just spring it on someone. It’s on my list of 36×37 assignments, and this is the only free weekend we have for a while, so there’s no time like the present.
Our room at The Westin Cincinnati doesn’t exactly say “Welcome. Your romantic getaway awaits you.” It’s more, “You’re here with your boss! Enjoy the mini bar!” But aside from the corporate veneer, there’s a big screen TV for the football. Plus, there’s a bed with lots of fluffy white pillows, and that’s exactly where I plan to take my post half-time nap.
The Buckeyes win, because of course they would. We celebrate at Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront, a five-star restaurant nestled on the Covington, KY edge of the Ohio River. At night it looks like this:
The restaurant has a South Beach, Miami theme. When we walk past the tables to our cozy, C-shaped booth, the peach and gold interior makes me wonder if I should have tracked down some Delta Burke, 80’s era shoulder pads rather than this little black dress.
A beautiful blonde approaches the table. “Hello, and welcome to Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront. Would you like to see our wine list?” GB orders Maker’s Mark and I order a nice Pinot Grigio.
When we’re alone again, GB whispers, “Have you noticed how everyone is sitting side by side in these booths? It’s creepy.”
He’s right. Each couple sits shoulder to shoulder, watching the skyline on the waterfront. GB is weirded out by what he clearly perceives to be PDA, rather than the logistics of enjoying a beautiful view. I only notice that none of the couples are talking to or even looking at each other. They seem bored. Absent, maybe. Or something even worse. I feel like a spotlight shines on something I don’t really want to notice.
The beautiful blonde server returns. “Hello, and welcome to Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront,” she says. “Can I answer your questions about our house specialties?” I almost choke on my Pinot Grigio because she has just introduced herself again…and then it hits me: she’s a different beautiful blonde, who happens to look exactly like the other one.
GB and I spend the rest of the evening laughing together and enjoying the spectacular food. He orders the Barrel-cut Filet Mignon and twice-baked potato, and I order the Cider-brined Pork Chop with granny smith apple compote and baked cavatappi. Later, I order the cheesecake and (for the first time in my life) can’t finish it.
But that’s not what I’ll remember about this weekend. Instead, I’ll remember the bored, overstuffed couples and their vacant faces—how they dolled up for a night on the town, then made no effort to take advantage of it.
I don’t know. This does not sit well with me. It makes me cagey. Nervous. Ready to rail against an abstract future. Plus, it makes me think of something an old boss said to me once, just before GB and I tied the knot. He’d married once before, divorced after two children, and then married a much younger woman. “Nah. Marriage isn’t hard. It’s easy. Like football. A smart man will follow his wife’s playbook, work his ass off to get to the next down, and try his damndest not to fumble.”
Whatever that means. Men and their sports analogies.
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