I seem to have become one half of one of those disgustingly happy couples I’d see in restaurants while sitting alone, pretending to read, silently shooting blasts of imaginary acid at their smug, lovey dovey faces. Now I’m fully immersed in the complacency of couplehood. Making future plans a year in advance. Ending text messages with emoticons. Sometimes I don’t even recognize the person I’ve become.
On Thursday I met his parents. His boisterous, Latino father, and blonde, German mother. They drove up from California to see him, his little brother in tow. When we got to their hotel room, they hugged me. His father offered me a beer. I sat stiffly on the loveseat with my hands folded in my lap, quietly bewildered. They are warm and genuine despite my complete inability to make small talk. When Carlos went to the bathroom and I was left alone with them, I ran through a thousand possible things to say, but ended up asking them if they knew that in Oregon it’s illegal to pump your own gas.
Later, we all walked along the water front, and when a photo-op presented itself, his mom had me pose for a picture with Carlos and his dad and brother. Carlos gave them a tour of downtown, and we ended up in a dimly lit restaurant that I was relieved to discover was too loud to encourage further conversation. Carlos and his family all ordered beer with dinner. I ordered a strawberry lemonade and felt like I was intruding on “Family” time. Wondered suddenly what I was doing there, and had to curb an intense desire to flee. Carlos’s hand beneath the table found my knee and gave it a reassuring squeeze that told me, I am family.
Impossible not to imagine him meeting my own parents at some point. The one horse, Texas town where I grew up. My mother standing with arms folded, staring at him blankly. My dad asking him if he’s my girlfriend. Dinner at a Golden Corral. Sleeping in separate rooms. A moratorium on personal displays of affection. Introductions to extended family as my “friend.”
I first realized the depth of our commitment over a year ago when he suggested we get a joint bank account. The idea of it intrigued and disturbed me in equal parts. Even though I’d had relationships before, there’d never been any kind of financial co-mingling. It was the first time I realized he was serious about being with me. A seriousness that would continue to reveal itself in surprising ways. How we’d stopped using protection when we had sex. How I’d moved to a new town where I knew no one, just to be close to him. How, to my surprise, I’ve never come to regret any of these decisions.
With the passing of time comes intimacy. But there are some drawbacks to this much comfort. We used to put in a movie as an excuse to have sex. Now we actually watch the movie. We used to be reserved. Now we are people who are unembarrassed to pass gas in front of one another. We used to have pet names for one another. Now these names have devolved into things like “Bamboozle” and “Fuzzy Wuzzle.” I try not to dwell on these things.
“How do you feel about moving to New York next year?” He asks. Imagine the two of us struggling to survive in a small apartment in Brooklyn. A fold out bed that pulls down over the kitchen sink. Neighbors screaming at one another in unknown languages. He and I cramped into this small space in this unknown city. Tell him, “That sounds wonderful.”