I’m not sure how to begin today, so I will let time be my guide and rewind a week to last Friday. Matt’s visit was wonderful. When it comes to him, I’m like a CD that keeps skipping: wonderful! wonderful! wonderful! And it was, three times over. There is something about his way that puts me at ease almost instantly, even when I’m feeling like a bundle of nerves, firing anxiously over his arrival.
I have never dated anyone for as long as Matt and I have been seeing each other—a few months shy of three years. It’s kind of magical, being part of a relationship that has had some time to grow and shift. Being with him no longer feels new and shiny. We’ve weathered some difficult moments, most of them brought on by me. I’ve forced us to navigate questions about dating other people and our level of commitment to each other. We made it through a painful period of depression and anxiety during my final year of graduate school and not once did Matt tell me what to do, which was exactly the right thing for him to do. We made it through huge career transitions for him, and he didn’t even yell at me even when I was being really annoying during his move halfway across the country. (I have since learned my lesson. I hope!)
For me, time has made our relationship softer, more comfortable. I worry less and enjoy it more. I feel goofier and more playful, but in some ways we’ve become more straightforward with each other. Here’s an example: I had a Dave Matthews Band album in the CD player when he arrived for lunch on Friday, and as soon as we’d finished saying hello, he announced, “Ugh, I HATE Dave Matthews!” This came from a man who hardly ever uses the word hate, so he wasn’t kiddin’ around. And he said this to me, who has listened to her DMB albums so much they are part of the soundtrack of my history. As a teenager, I first fell in love while a rotation of DMB albums grooved in the background. And now the current love of my life announces that he hates them. You know what I did? Without skipping a beat, I offered to turn it off. No arguing, no questions asked. Just like that. Because with Matt, that sort of thing doesn’t matter to me. (Plus I know I’ll have complete control of the music as soon as he leaves. Ha!)
We see each other once every three months. You might think that we would both feel a lot of pressure to make our visits feel “special,” and sometimes that is true. I want Matt to have a good time with me. I worry that College Station lacks the energy and charm of Evanston and Chicago, but what we’ve lost in urban splendor, we’ve gained in other ways. We went walking in three nice parks, Lick Creek Park, Bee Creek Park, and Lemon Tree Park, where we gazed at wildflowers and listened to birds twittering to each other. We bought delicate lettuce at the farmers’ market and tasted samples of homemade salsa. (I bought two jars!) We visited “our” coffee shop and sipped coffee while sitting outside in the sun. We sat out by the pool in our swimsuits and watched lizards challenge each other, heads nodding swiftly, throats swelling aggressively, bodies changing color like mood rings. We had a fancy meal at Christopher’s World Grill and cheap Tex-Mex food at Rosa’s.
We did more walking than cooking and more talking than anything else. Both of us have been incredibly busy with our jobs, so it was nice to let someone else feed us for a few meals. And being outside with Matt, where we could talk about plants and trees, was restorative.
He left on Sunday, our plans to see each other in July floating in the air like fuzzy windborne seeds. I cried a little bit, like I usually do. Then I soothed myself with some retail therapy at Old Navy. I even bought a pair of green shorts. I can’t remember the last time I bought new shorts, but here in Texas, I think I’m going to need them. Then I ignored the dirty sheets and dishes while I read my new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, a book I can’t wait to use when I’m teaching undergraduates cell and molecular biology. This book is science writing at its best and human arrogance at its worst. It’s stunning.
My life goes on, with and without Matt. But he has changed it, and I am as grateful for that as I am for his love.