It was raining hard and Will and I were in a hurry to get to the theater in time. It was that moment, when Will turned his head away from me to merge onto the interstate, that I tossed him a question.
"So, in the past eleven years, what would you say is one thing about me that hasn't changed?"
I'm reading Pema Chödrön's book Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change, so now I'm fixated on the idea that life is constantly changing.
If I were driving, which I wouldn't have been--Will feels uncomfortable when he's in the passenger seat with me--and if Will had asked me the same question, which he wouldn't have--Will is secure enough with himself that he doesn't need constant validation from me--I would have shushed him and told him I had to concentrate on the slippery road conditions. Will didn't shush me. He answered my question without hesitation.
"What?" I laughed and looked at the beads of water forming on the windshield. "I don't even know what that means. You mean, like, I never give up?"
"Yes. Exactly." Will kept his eyes on the road.
There's this overpass that connects southbound 69 Highway to eastbound I-435. It freaks me out. The walls on each side are made of that heavy concrete-looking stuff that's often used to divide highways. If your car goes hurtling into one, the idea is it will smash before heading into on-coming traffic. But on this overpass the walls feel too short, like there's not enough protection to keep your car from flying off the side.
"Those concrete sides are too short. If you had an accident couldn't your car just fly right over the sides of the wall?" I said aloud.
Eleven years ago Will would not have understood that my question was rhetorical and anxiety-induced and that I actually didn't want him to explain to me the physics behind the concrete blocks keeping us safe. He would have gone on and on about how the structure works and I would have nodded and smiled and pretended to listen. Will understands me now better than he did eleven years ago, so he kept his rational thoughts to himself.
He took his eyes off the road momentarily as we approached the overpass. He smiled at me the way you do the second you're strapped in and the roller coaster starts to take off. I quickly smiled back and then turned my head to face forward, hoping he'd follow my lead. I sucked in my breath and then expelled it from my lungs forcefully. I thought about one of my favorite scenes from the movie Parenthood:
"I wish I didn't worry so much," I said, keeping my eyes on the water beads in front of me.
I'm sure Will wishes I didn't worry so much too. But he didn't say anything, and when we got to the other side of the overpass and merged safely into our spot among the traffic, he took his right hand off the wheel and held mine.
We were in a hurry because we had changed plans at the last minute. Earlier in the day while I was at work, Will drove Katie to his folk's house so she could have a sleepover with them and her cousins, so Will and I could celebrate the eleventh anniversary of our first date. It's probably due to the amount of time I spent in previous relationships with women that I put such a great emphasis on first dates. In my day, lesbians weren't allowed to get married so a first-date anniversary was it. Will and I were similarly casual about a legal marriage. We lived together for about a year before I said to him one day, without thinking:
We should get married!
And he replied, without hesitation,
Sure, why not.
By the time we officially got married, we'd been dating for two-and-a-half-years. Including a six-week break-up one summer before we realized how much we wanted to be together. We were married by a retired judge inside our apartment--with the dog as my maid of honor--because of the rain outside changing our plans to get hitched in the park across the street.
Inside the car, I tried not to think of the various ways the rain could change our plans that night, but one way in particular kept popping into my head: both of us on stretchers in the ER, bloody and mangled, the car smashed into a concrete block on the highway or upturned below, off the side of the overpass. I breathed in and out and felt the warmth of Will's hand against mine. We are here now. We are in this moment. I need nothing more than this.
The rain didn't change our plans. We got to the theater a little late, but safe and secure. A little wet, but the water droplets evaporated as we got into our seats, lifted the dividing arm rest, and fell into each other.
It was a last minute plan anyway. Those are the ones that work out the best. If I put too much thought into how I want something to go, I get disappointed. The best choices I've made in life have come with the least amount of deliberation.
That morning as I was getting ready for work, I suggested we go see some live music that night. We knew Katie was spending the night with her grandparents, but we didn't have a firm plan for how we wanted to spend our date night. Will said that sounds good, but we committed to nothing. By the time I got home from a long eight hour shift, the last four of which I'd spent on my feet, I was too tired to summon enough coolness to be seen in public at any show I'd be interested in seeing, so we decided to go see a movie and then grab some dinner. It was Will's idea.
"But the movie I really want to see right now is Silver Linings Playbook," I said.
"So? I'll go see that with you," Will said, unsmiling. He looked sad, like the time I got him the wrong kind of Russell Stover coconut chocolates for our anniversary. For the fifth year in a row.
"What?" I asked.
"What what?" He said.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" I said.
"Like you're disappointed. Because you wanted to see The Hobbit and I put it off too long and now it's gone?" I guessed.
"No," Will shook his head. "We can see it on DVD."
"Then why are you looking at me that way?" I asked.
"Because my wife doesn't think I'd want to see a movie she likes!" Will scoffed.
"Oh yeah, I guess you did go see Brokeback Mountain with me, didn't you," I said.
"Yeah. What? Did you think I was going to make you go see the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?"
"No!" I laughed. "But I feel bad that we didn't get to see The Hobbit since it's your thing. And since the movie we saw on our first date was Return of the King. It would be a nice reminder of our first date."
We were both quiet for a moment until I said, "So you really will go see Silver Linings Playbook with me?" I slapped him playfully on the arm.
"Yes, I said so, didn't I? I like to do things my wife likes to do, you know?" He looked like he wanted to slap me back, perhaps not so playfully.
I leaned forward, my lips barely touching his, and whispered, "Is it hard to live with me?"
He laughed and leaned back and said, "Look up the showtimes!"
I did, and we made a plan. We'd go see Silver Linings Playbook at 6:55 at Ward Parkway and then head to Westport afterwards to get burgers and beer at The Green Room. It was Will's idea. The Green Room advertised in The Regular Joe Kansas City, the local paper I've started writing for, so Will figured they might have a copy of the paper we could get our hands on.
They didn't, and we ended up not seeing Silver Linings Playbook either. At the last minute, I joked, "You want me to check and see if The Hobbit's still showing somewhere?" I was teasing Will, because I know it drives him crazy that I always change my mind at the last minute after we've finally settled on plans.
He called my bluff and said, "Sure, why not."
I had checked a couple of weeks ago when we finally got around to going to see The Hobbit, but at that time it wasn't showing in theaters around here anymore. I felt so bad. I had told Will I'd go see it with him on the big screen and I'd put it off too long. So I figured this second attempt at finding a local showtime would be futile, but I did it anyway.
And guess what? A dollar movie theater across town had a showing in thirty minutes.
Now that I know for sure Will's willing, we can go see Silver Linings Playbook another time.