Disclaimers, Warnings, Valentine's Day Wishes, Etc.:: Inspired by Emily. Ass kicked by Frankie. Names borrowed from wonderful friends. Steph - thanks for asking. You're an inspiration. I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day. I intend to. Comments can be directed to me.
"If someone came near me with a strip of blood-soaked goat's hide and tried to slap me with it, I'd kick their ass."
"Uh-huh," I mumbled in response, not really listening.
It was Sunday morning, a sacred morning in our house. It's sacred, certainly not due to any religious reasons, but because it seems to be the only day where, schedules permitting, we sleep late, have a long, leisurely breakfast, drink lots of coffee and just generally lounge around in our pajamas doing nothing. It's funny how that nothing is sometimes everything.
I took another sip of coffee and turned another page of the newspaper. Ah, here it is - the crossword puzzle. I opened the drawer in the end table and rummaged through it for a pencil, vaguely aware of more rumblings coming from the other end of the couch.
"People are nuts."
"Mmmm hmmm." I had no clue what she was talking about, but I could agree with that statement, at least generally. People are nuts. Even sane people lose it every now and then.
I chuckled to myself. Sane people. I don't think there are any. I know I'm not one. The evil cackle she just emitted confirms that she's not one either.
"You're cackling," I accused.
"And you're chuckling. I always worry when you chuckle."
I pouted and held out my coffee cup. I can be shameless. Besides, she was sitting up and I was lying down. Well, propped up on a few pillows, but she was definitely more vertical than I was. It's one of the rules ‚ she who is most vertical gets the refills.
I received a look but she stuck her hand out and I relinquished my coffee mug with a charming smile.
"You're lucky I love you," was her parting shot as she left the room.
I called out after her, "Yes, I am." I may be many things, but stupid is not one of them. I know that I am very lucky that she loves me.
I sighed, contented and went back to my crossword puzzle. A minute later she returned with my coffee and a quick kiss.
"Thanks for the coffee, baby."
She sat down and picked up her paper and started reading again as I went back to my crossword. A few minutes later, a roar of laughter made me look up from the crossword.
"Figures. And I bet that went over real well. I think I'd prefer the blood-soaked goat's hide."
That got my attention. "What?"
She looked up from the paper and said simply, "St. Valentine's Day."
Like that would explain the reference to the blood-soaked goat's hide. "What?" I asked again.
"Lupercalia, shepherds, fertility."
At my blank stare, she continued, "The history of St. Valentine's Day...this article...all the different traditions. Some people...Lupercalia was a Roman festival of fertility. Men would slap women with strips of goat hide taken from the goats they had sacrificed."
I have no idea what my expression was.
"Don't ask me why they did it."
That was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, if she knew why they did it, I would have been worried.
"History's funny, huh? Scientia est potentia. Knowledge is power. I wonder who said that originally, or at least who we give credit to for the saying. Can you imagine...today...if I were to chase you around with a piece of blood-soaked goat's hide? They'd have me committed or call me a devil worshipper or something. Yet back then, it was all perfectly normal, expected even. Hey Mom, don't wait up for me. I'm gonna go outside and hang out and hope that some smelly shepherd guy comes by with some blood-soaked goat's hide and whacks me with it so I can start popping out babies. I've got a big, glossy eight by ten picture of that."
Sometimes, she makes my head spin.
"I mean, can you imagine that?"
I really couldn't imagine her standing outside waiting for a guy to do anything to her, much less slap her with a piece of dead goat, so I shook my head no.
"But you know, most people forget that sharing it is empowerment. I saw that on the news. 'Sharing it is empowerment.' That was part of the slogan for a march to honor Martin Luther King. I don't know where the march was held, but that saying is pretty profound, don't you think? 'Knowledge is power. Sharing it is empowerment.'"
I finally recovered enough to contribute verbally to the conversation. "I'm glad you clarified that. I wasn't sure what 'it' was."
"Really, think about it, honey. Isn't that what the struggle has been for forever? It's about knowledge. Hell, even Jesus knew that."
My eyebrows rose. She's really been thinking when she brings in a bible reference.
"That story in the bible....forget it. I got confused."
She's not the only one.
"It's not the bible. It was that ancient Chinese proverb ‚ 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime or something like that. Anyway, the point is that we're supposed to learn from history. If they knew way back then that knowledge is power, why do we keep ignoring it now?"
"I have no idea."
"Or maybe we're not ignoring it. Maybe it's that those who have the knowledge want to keep it. They don't want to empower others. They like their power."
"I would guess that's probably it."
"We have more knowledge now. I mean, all of us on a whole, I think, have more knowledge about things in general than, say, the average Roman did two thousand years ago. Does that mean we have more power?"
It may be selfish of me, but I really wasn't up for a discussion of history, power and ancient Romans. I was still wondering about the clue that I had read right before she started this conversation ‚ Authoritative order. I was pretty sure that the answer was "writ" but I hadn't looked down at the crossword puzzle to check it. Time to sidetrack the conversation. "That's an interesting question. I'll have to think about that one for a while."
"My brain hurts."
I laughed. "I'm sure it does."
Besides the occasional bizarre conversation, our relationship has been nothing but normal ‚ no action-packed adventures or jet-setting weekends. Just normal. It has been the most amazing normal, though. Waking up every morning next to her is a feeling I wouldn't trade anything for. It's not always been easy, but it has been simple. We have each other and that's it. When we hit a rough spot, we find a way through it together. No 'ifs, ands or buts' about it.
In the beginning, it was somewhat...chaotic. We worked together in one of those large office buildings downtown where the entire floor was nothing but fluorescent lights and cubicles and the mandatory water cooler. Our cubicles were on the same aisle, although at opposite ends. If I pushed my chair back far enough and leaned backwards, I could see her. Do I need to tell you that I flipped out of my chair on several occasions trying to catch a glimpse of her? I'd be thinking about her and I'd start to lean back and the next thing I knew, I was grabbing for the side of the cubicle. The two guys who sat on either side of me thought I was nuts. They were right. I was. I've settled down so much since then.
I don't know what it was about her that drew me to her, but I was the proverbial moth and she was the flame. We were both quite shy and I think that it took me two months of hanging around the water cooler before I even said hello.
I can't tell you how I berated myself for my attraction to her. I had sworn off wine, women and song for forever. I thought that was a good thing. I couldn't sing. Wine gave me a headache. And women...don't get me started. And yes, I realize I'm one.
Truth be told, I was tired and I was angry. I had a series of bad relationships. I was tired of all the bullshit ‚ the emotional dramas, the games, the stuff that just drains the life out of me, but seems to energize my opponent...er, partner. Weren't people supposed to mature as they got older? Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Clearly, someone had failed to tell the people I went out with and I was very angry at whoever that someone was.
I don't feel that anger anymore. We have a wonderfully mature relationship and we can also act like kids.
She glanced up again. "I suppose your brain is really hurting."
It's a long-standing joke between us. Each of us is prone, on occasion, to these stream of consciousness brain dumps. The only problem is it tends to make the other one wish she was unconscious. We've always done that.
I can't tell you how grateful I am that I found her at the time and place that I did. Despite having sworn off women and spending thousands of dollars on hundreds of hours of therapy, I found myself falling out of my chair on a regular basis trying to catch a glimpse of someone I didn't even know. It was like I had regressed to that age in grammar school where little boys show off to impress the little girls. Except I wasn't a little boy and she wasn't a little girl. She was a big girl that made my palms sweat and I couldn't think of a damned thing to do to impress her. If I had met her before I had spent all that money, I wouldn't have known how to make it work. What a loss that would have been for me.
I finally mustered up the courage to talk to her during breaks. She was very reserved, cautious even. You'd never know that now. Well, maybe you would. She's still a little reserved around people she's not comfortable with. Me, I turn into a Chatty Cathy doll. I can't stop talking. She gets quiet. But she's not quiet around me. That's one of the things I love about her. Her little Sunday morning diatribes can be quite entertaining.
I could tell early on that she didn't quite know how to take me. I knew that she was a lesbian because I happened to have met the friend of a friend of an ex-girlfriend of hers who mentioned that she worked at the same place I did. But that's not something that you can really come right out and say, can you? "Hi, how are you? By the way, I know this girl Kathie who knows this girl Karen who knows this girl Michele who knows you. Hang around the water cooler a lot?" I got the puzzled look from her quite a few times in the beginning ‚ Does she or doesn't she know about me?
It's so hard to know what to say and do in the beginning. I decided that I would take a novel approach to this...whatever it was. I'd see if I actually liked her before attempting to embark on a romantic relationship with her. I drove my therapist and myself crazy those first few months.
"It's just your hormones talking. You don't have to listen. Relax. Give it some time." I hated when my therapist would say that, but now I am forever grateful for those words. I'd take a deep breath and suck it up for another week. Eventually, my hormones did calm down and we developed a wonderful friendship. I found out that she had quite a sense of humor. She was well read. We could banter about different subjects and it was...easy and comfortable. I woke up one morning and realized that I liked her. I genuinely liked her. I don't know why I was so surprised.
"You're falling in love." That was my therapist's grand pronouncement on the subject.
"Oh, please. I've been in plenty of relationships. I know what love is."
I thought therapists weren't supposed to show surprise. Or laugh. Apparently mine had missed those little lessons in therapy class. "You've been in lust plenty of times, I'll grant you that. But all of those women...you wouldn't have been friends with them had it not been for the hormonal attraction. No, this is the first time you've been in love."
The truth of her statement hit me like a sledgehammer. I was vaguely aware of my jaw dropping. "But...." The words died on my lips. There was nothing to protest, no need to defend myself. She had spoken the truth. I hate that. I spent the next week coming up with all kinds of arguments that would prove her wrong in my next session. Every argument had a fatal flaw. I wisely chose not to bring it up again. But it had made me think a great deal and I suppose that was one of her motivations behind telling me.
My therapist was right. I hate admitting that. I really had never been in love. At least I had never felt the way I was feeling. Then I freaked out. What if she didn't feel it? That topic occupied a few more therapy sessions.
"What am I going to do?"
"Who says you have to do anything?"
"Well, no one. But...."
I glared at her, annoyed. Was she dense? I had finally figured out that this woman was the love of my life. What part of that didn't she understand? "But I'm in love with her."
"What do you mean 'and'?"
"I love her."
"What the hell am I supposed to do about it?"
"What do you want to do about it?"
I hate therapists sometimes. I shot back, "If I knew what I wanted to do about it, I wouldn't be asking you, now would I?"
And that was the problem, summed up in a nutshell. I didn't know what to do about it and I was definitely too scared to find out how my now other half felt about me. It was, really, too much for my little mind to handle. I had realized that my hopes and dreams paled in comparison to my reality with her. If I took a chance and told her how I felt, I could lose what we had.
I only realized that I had been talking out loud when I heard my therapist say, "Or, if you took that chance, you could gain more than you ever thought possible."
Who would have thought it possible? Certainly not me. I think I walked around in a state of shock for several weeks after that little revelation.
She put the paper down and stretched. 'How is your week looking?"
"Pretty good so far." I shifted on the couch. "I made reservations for 8:30 Friday night. Is that okay?"
The transformation in her face is remarkable sometimes. A few minutes ago, she had been so intense and now...there was soft shyness. "Oh, for Valentine's Day. How wonderful! At...."
I smiled. "A Restaurant." That was the name of it. Really. A Restaurant. It's an eclectic little place way off the beaten path. You wouldn't know it was a restaurant as it looks like any other house on the street. We asked the proprietor once why it was called "A Restaurant." He said, "Because it's not a house." Who am I to argue with that logic?
"Thank you. That's my favorite place."
"You're welcome, sweetheart. It's hard to believe that it's going to be nine years."
"For everything. For nine years, filled with things that I thought were impossible."
"You're welcome. And thank you. It takes two, you know."
This time, I received a brilliant smile.
It does take two. That's what I finally figured out during those few weeks when I didn't know what to do. I needed to talk to her about it and I was so scared. But how could I possibly make any decisions without knowing how she felt? I had been trying to plan everything knowing only one side of the story. Mine.
I remember that she asked me more than once during that time whether there was something wrong. I wanted to laugh. Wrong? No, nothing's wrong. Everything's right. You're right. More than right. "I think it's post holiday blues. I'm fine. Really I am." I think that last line was to convince myself.
My therapist finally confronted me. With a sigh, she asked, "Have you decided what you're going to do about this?"
I stared at her. "Wasn't it you who told me that I didn't have to do anything?"
"That's not what I said."
I love paying money to someone so they can disagree with me. "Yes, it is."
"No, I believe what I said was 'Who said you had to do anything about it'."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"I...have a plan."
"Yes, a plan." Hah! I felt triumphant. I don't think that she thought I had a plan.
She looked at me, expecting more. When I wasn't forthcoming, she asked, "What's your plan?"
"I'm going to give her a valentine." Too bad I didn't know about the blood-soaked goat's hide then. I could have really given my therapist a cause for concern.
"And that's it."
I've never seen my therapist at a loss for words...until then. I could see those little therapy wheels spinning inside her head as she tried to figure out a therapeutic way of telling me my plan sucked.
"I'm not just going to give her a card, you know. I am going to write stuff in it."
She nodded her head slowly.
"I'm going to ask her to dinner."
"Good. That's a step."
"I'm going to tell her that I need to quit my job."
My therapist's eyes widened in alarm. "Why are you going to quit your job?"
"Because our company has a policy of non-fraternization and since I intend to explain to her that I very much want to fraternize with her, I should be the one to quit."
My therapist laughed. "That's a unique way to do it."
"I don't know about that. It just seems less frightening to me for some reason."
Valentine's Day rolled around and there I sat in my little cubicle, holding a small Valentine's card in my hand. It was the kind you get when you are a small child. They come fifty to a box. I had gone through about forty of them trying to find the right words. I had finally settled on "Dinner tonight?" Safe words in case I chickened out.
I noticed that she had gone to the restroom, so I got up, walked over to her cubicle, practically threw the card on top of her desk and high-tailed it back to mine.
She came back from the restroom. My heart was pounding. I couldn't look. What if she got upset? Slapped me in front of all of our co-workers? Told our boss I was sexually harassing her? Shit! I could lose my job. I couldn't help myself. I had to look. I pushed my chair away from my desk, leaned back and looked.
I was met with the most brilliant smile. My heart went into my throat and tears welled in my eyes. I knew then. I wasn't afraid anymore. That was the first night we had dinner at A Restaurant.
The sound of her voice brought me back.
"I'm so excited we're going to eat there again. I just love that place. It's so romantic!" She laughs softly. "I remember that first Valentine's Day when you brought me there. It just confirmed my suspicions that you were a hopeless romantic. If you hadn't 'fessed up, I don't know what I would have done...maybe beaten you over the head with a stick and dragged you back to my place. You were making me crazy. "
She still makes me blush. I had forgotten about my crossword puzzle. "I love you. Wanna go celebrate Valentine's Day a little early?"