He’s endlessly interesting and wears only boxer briefs – navy, grey, and black. There’s not even one lone pair of faded red ones crammed way in the back of the drawer, the kind that may as well be labeled Male Period Undies. At the end of the day, his socks never smell like that one guy’s did.
He recalls the names of those people who inhabit my days and doesn’t need constant reminders that I’m talking about “the tall one” or ‘the pretty one” or “the one I’m somehow stuck with because of some twisted formula made up of history multiplied by unfortunate proximity.” He takes notes in his head and organizes them in whatever way makes sense to aid him in recall. He follows stories and anecdotes, even the ones told nonlinearly, even the ones where the narrative is fractured by my bursts of uncontrollable and sudden laughter. My giggles cause him to start laughing, too.
He understands full fucking well what a “cheat day” actually is and never pretends it involves eating an extra green apple. Consuming a slice of citrus does not cause him to bemoan that his carb intake has just skyrocketed through the caloric stratosphere. He realizes how, every now and again, my need to ingest chocolate is just that – a need – and the chocolate he proceeds to bestow upon me like a perfect cocoa beacon has some stuff in it, a drizzle of caramel perhaps, or a fluffy coating of white marshmallow, because he agrees that unadorned chocolate is a flagrant waste of both my saturated fat intake and my time.
He knows deep within his soul that his past informs much of his present, but he manages not to use any of it, including the repressed stuff covered in symbolic mold, as any kind of a crutch. He’s way too strong for that sort of nihilistic bullshit.
He doesn’t coddle me when I wallow and he really hates it when I whine. He likes me best when my eyes blaze an ambitious golden fire.
He likes autumn the best like I do and craves a day when I can nuzzle against his chest while we watch the teeming rain hit the windows and the skylight. When thunder blasts, we both feel more alive. He recognizes the necessity of our sometimes-silence and shares my joy of fresh sheets spread across my new bed. There’s no longer any reason to explain that I like the television on as background noise, I just do, and no, we’re not going to mute it this evening.
He doesn’t judge the legitimate way my blood pressure spikes when I’m watching the evening news, but he’s savvy enough to recommend that perhaps it’s time I torch those straggly remnants of naiveté and finally just accept the notion that some people will always make the absolute worst choice available to them if it’s in their own self-interest to do so. He gives his opinions straight and he’s willing to disagree because he knows I can take it. Sometimes when we debate and I stop to take a breath, he shakes his head slowly, a slight smile touching his lips. I think my favorite You is Verbal You, he laughs. He stops laughing when I make sure he remembers that Stripping Me should also land in the Top 3. He compliments whatever bra lands on the floor because he knows I picked it out with purpose. The way he takes notice delights me every single time.
He rolls easily with my moods and recognizes the first glimpses of silliness, sleepiness, and seriousness. He gives me space when I’m drifting towards moody, morose, and dead-expressioned from a drying mud mask. Never – and I mean not ever – does he criticize what I’m wearing, but he makes sure I know that he likes me best in my navy sweats and a thin tank top I’ve had for about a decade. I like him best in the charcoal grey tee that smells like my future.
He’s not afraid of vulnerability – his or mine. He can share when he’s worried and I can mention when I’m feeling out of sorts. We accept that our actions will inevitably cause powerful reactions and we try to conduct ourselves accordingly. We’re each terrified about relying entirely on someone else for happiness or for peace.
He has a history and so do I, but he is a proponent of starting fresh. He knows that Subtext is my fourth most proficient language –behind English, Sarcasm and quotes entirely constructed from John Hughes movies – but I’ve made it clear that Subtext is not how I wish to communicate. No, I’m really more of a say-what-I’m-thinking-and-see-where-things-shake-out kind of girl and I will never feel anything but pity for a grown man scared of something human like honesty.
Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of him across a room, I can’t quite believe he’s real. Sometimes I acknowledge that he's new to me and so I can't really guarantee he is real.
He smells clean and sort of woodsy, but like he also worked out. Sometimes there’s a leftover dab of shaving cream hidden behind that one earlobe I tend to bite. He knows I bizarrely achieve comfort by tracing the tips of my fingertips slowly up his forearm, dipping them beneath the cloth of his shirt where the touch somehow feels more intense. He puts his head back and smiles when I scrape my nails across his scalp because that kinetic rhythm relaxes me more than getting a massage and the blissful fluttering of his eyelashes feels like a reward for us both.
He likes to talk about his day and he knows ambition matters. When his job becomes nothing but frustrating, he vents without turning into someone else entirely.
Being that he’s both adult and human, he has mastered the fine arts of compassion and how to pick out the right shoes for any given outfit. He has long-term friends and he’s up to date with their spinning worlds. He doesn’t see me as every woman who has come before – and that includes his mother. He knows Springsteen is a God and Trump is a fraud.
He thinks growth comes through experience and reflection. He quiets his mind with far more ease and success than I’m able to do and fosters the health of his body every single day. He reads at least a book a week and will sometimes send me a text of a passage he thinks I’ll have a powerful reaction to, whether positive or negative. When I showed him the brand new guitar I can still barely play, he requested I strum There Is Only One River because he’s evolved enough to know that songs from Airplane should always appear on a set list before yet another rendition of Freebird.
He’s got an air of mystery still about him. I’ve yet to completely figure him out and I don’t feel ready to solve him. He had a full conversation with my Maltipoo about why he hates some MSNBC pundit and I’m almost sure that she agreed with him. He knows I once tried to live my life in a classically traditional kind of way and that I failed at it miserably. For now anyway, he appreciates that I’m not like the rest.
He leaves coffee mugs everywhere and steals the covers without guilt. When he makes dinner, the kitchen morphs into a candidate for a F.E.M.A. relief concert. He’s sometimes too arrogant and once he mentioned that Mike Pence had a good point about something relating to women. He laughs too long and too loudly at reruns of South Park.
He once tried to explain why Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s crowning achievement while I stared at him blankly, willing silence. We walked into a candy store in my town that I view quite seriously as my own personal version of The Good Place and he whispered that the incessant sounds of the Willy Wonka soundtrack was slowly driving him mad. He suggested we share a candy bag, as though I would ever do such a deranged thing.
But he knows how to build a fire and I can hear when he’s missing me. And he can hear, in the cracks that still form in my own voice, that my mind sometimes scatters so it’s best to take things smooth and slow.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Her Twitter is @nell_kalter and her website is nellkalter.com