It’s GB’s birthday today. He’s 35, although he says he feels a whole lot older. We have plans to celebrate with my family tonight, and the boys and I are taking him to breakfast this morning. On Thursday, though, I canceled my noon meeting and met GB for lunch so we could celebrate his big day by ourselves.
As we scanned the menu, I of course spent a minute or two teasing him about The Big 3-5 in a shamefully uncreative way. “This is your last year to check the “21-35” box on forms, you know.” I said. “You’ll be out of the youth market. Beer companies won’t want anything more to do with you.”
He grinned ruefully. “Remember how, when I first started my job, the marketing team took pictures of the lab, and I was in one of those pictures? Since then, my 23-year-old self is on posters around the building. I walked past one with [Mr. Company President] a few days ago, and he told me I’d aged a lot.”
“He did?” I said. I tilted my head and tried to survey my husband objectively. To me, he didn’t look like he’d aged much at all. I could only see the same smart, preppy, smirking kid I married all those years ago.
It’s April 9, 1999. I’m at the Franklin County Probate Court, waiting to sign a marriage license for the wedding that is just two weeks away. I left work early and arrived at 3:45 by myself. Now it’s 4:19, the office will close in 11 minutes, and GB has yet to walk through the door.
The receptionist eyes me sympathetically from behind the desk. I avoid eye contact as long as I can. When she does catch my glance, she says, “I’m sorry, sweetie. It looks like he’s not coming.”
“Oh, he’ll be here!” I say in my most chipper voice. “I’m sure he’s just running late.”
She nods encouragingly and returns to her crossword puzzle.
Meanwhile, I try to decide how best to retaliate for being stood up on marriage license-signing day: If I get home first, should I pack up all his things and then wait for him, or should I change the lock, spend the night at my parents’ house and leave all his crap on the back doorstep? The first could work, because the yelling would be cathartic. But the second would be better; I’m already humiliated enough.
“No matter what,” I tell myself, “I’m keeping his CDs. He’ll have to pry them from my cold, lifeless, broken-hearted fingers to even think about getting them back.”
The clock says 4:21.
I fumble around for my cell phone. In my head I leave him a message full of furious, unbridled obscenities. Instead, I mumble this into the phone: “GB, I’m at the courthouse. Where are you?”
Then I slink back in my chair to stare at the ceiling.
At 4:23, the door swings open, and there he is. His tanned face is all smiles and apologies. I burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” he asks in wide-eyed surprise.
“I left you messages! Why are you so late?”
“I got caught in traffic,” he says. “Then I couldn’t find a parking spot. I drove around forever. You know I wouldn’t stand you up.”
The receptionist pretends she’s not paying attention. She pulls a calculator out of her top drawer and starts poking the numbers with her pencil eraser.
GB exhales an exasperated sigh then collapses into the seat next to mine. “Now, are you going to learn trust me?” he says. “You know me well enough to know I would never let you down like that.”
The clock says 4:25.
“Let’s sign some papers,” I sniff.
For once, the government does two kids a favor and stays open a little late. We leave the courthouse with our license in hand, and say our vows in front of friends and family two weeks later. We spend the next decade sharing CDs that eventually turn into MP3 files, in an apartment that eventually turns into a house, that we own as a couple that eventually turns into a family.
From this safe distance of nearly 12 years, I can say GB has kept his promises. He has never let me down, not once. I think that’s why I can’t see if he’s changing. He’s never made me question him, so I’ve never needed to take a step back, reassess, or see him for anything other than the person I know him to be.
“Did you buy me the anti-balding shampoo for a reason?” he asked me yesterday morning.
I snorted. “I bought you anti-balding shampoo?”
“I thought you were trying to tell me something,” he said.
I laughed as I squinted at his full head of hair. “You know me well enough to know I’m not that subtle.”
(Happy birthday, sweetheart. I hope it’s fantastic. – M.)
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