He was five years younger, and very good-looking. I mentally crossed him off the list then and there.
"Too young for me," I said to myself. "Too good looking. He's going to want some beach babe, not me."
I did my best to put him off. I told myself not to get my hopes up (but I bought a new outfit anyway). He mentioned his elementary school; I mentioned going to parent-teacher conferences there (with the son of my previous boyfriend, who was eight years older than I). He asked if I wanted to see a movie, and I said yes (but I picked a grim one, thinking Bet he'll be bored.) He wasn't bored. Neither was I. I kept waiting for the ax to fall, the fatal flaw to reveal itself. Nothing happened. We went on a couple more dates. What is wrong with this guy? I kept thinking. There must be something wrong.
After the third or fourth date--I forget--we wound up back at my place, and he put some moves on me, and I sat him down on the sofa and gave him The Talk. I told him about my delicate emotional life, and what a poor fragile thing I was, and what a disaster the last boyfriend had been, and how I had decided, very firmly, not to Get Involved just now. I was dating around, I said. No exclusive relationships. He would just have to understand, I said.
He sat there for a long moment, looking at his clasped hands. Then he looked at me and said, "That's okay. I can wait. I'm a nice guy. If you stick around, sooner or later you'll figure that out."
This is a cliche, but really and truly, time stopped for a moment. It was like the universe hit me upside the head with a two-by-four and said, HEY. MUSH-FOR-BRAINS! PAY ATTENTION!
Even then I wasn't sure. I decided to run it by some people. Two night later, I'm having drinks with my friend Alison, and I recount this whole incident. "Well, that's worth checking out," she said. Alison, my level-headed friend, so good at keeping her wits when all about are losing theirs. I had zero faith in my own judgment, but Alison's I trusted. Okay, I thought. I'll give it a try.
Fast forward 15 years, to last night. I've been out late, and I come in the house, tiptoeing, and on the kitchen table I see a card that says, "For Tracy. With all my love. #14." It's from the nice guy, who is asleep upstairs, who has put the kids to bed so I can enjoy a night out with friends on what was our wedding anniversary night, except the babysitter bailed at the last minute. And I reflect on how, sometimes, when the universe wants to give you something priceless, it has to pry open your white-knuckled, clenched little fist and press it into your unwilling hand. Words cannot express how glad I am that happened to me, so all I can say is: Happy Anniversary, love.