The first time I really noticed Clayton, he was dressed as Anakin Skywalker at a Halloween party. I only knew who Anakin Skywalker was because the latest Star Wars movies were out and Hayden Christensen is dreamy. Whoever this guy was, he was Hayden’s doppelganger, messy dirty-blonde hair and laser blue eyes that tripped you up in the back of your throat.
Clayton and I fluttered around the same circle of friends for awhile as I flirted awkwardly and mildly stalked his intramural games. Our first date was more convenience than romance—we each already had tickets to the same performance for a theater class we were taking. Looking back, I’m certain this was Clayton’s frugal way of going on a first date on the cheap. The first part of the night was supremely uncomfortable. I had worn my go-to corduroys, but they seemed to have lost their magic. Turns out, corduroy lost its magic altogether around 1979.
I missed half of the performance looking sideways at my sweaty hand resting in a come-hither lilt across my leg, just waiting for Clayton to sneak over and soak up that sweat in a rom com-worthy maneuver that would result in The Hand Hold Heard ‘Round the World. Well, my hand stayed put for three hours. And so did his.
After the show, my roommate called to ask if we could pick up some ice cream on the way back. That call probably changed the course of Hayden’s perception of me. I like to think he fell for me somewhere between the Ben & Jerry’s and frozen pizza. All I know for sure is that we dropped off the ice cream at my dorm room and made our way to Landis Green. We stayed put for six hours.
I got even more awkward for the several months after that, refusing to speak when we were together and communicating Nell-style when he’d ask what I wanted for dinner or what movie we should rent. I have no idea why he stayed put for those mute six weeks or kept inviting me over. Maybe because I’d respectfully laid the corduroy to rest.
I finally got my crap together and began to dazzle him with jokes he couldn’t understand because I mumble when I’m nervous. In July, I showed up to my apartment with a bouquet of flowers waiting for me and a note asking me if I would be Clayton’s girlfriend, with a box for yes and a box for no. The Princess Amidala to his Anakin Skywalker…is a clever comment I would have said if I could have formed intelligible thought. I couldn’t. Instead, I found the brightest, most obnoxiously yellow t-shirt I had and drew a giant box with a giant check in it next to a giant “YES.”
An hour after we’d been hanging out at his apartment he finally noticed the shirt.
Kidding. It only took about twenty minutes.
But since that day, we’ve stayed put for almost ten years. Through long distance dating, through PA school, through a wedding, through other questionable fashion choices, through more outlandish Halloween costumes, through the cutting of the long blonde hair, through ten Dolphins and FSU football seasons, through the sarcasm, through moving away from everything we know, through moving back again, through raising and then parting with our first fur child, through incessant pregnancy and non-pregnancy-motivated requests for frozen yogurt, and then through
the explosion of madness that is parenthood.
And sure, there have been angry runs. And angry shopping trips. And angry road trips to nowhere. Little breathers that give us space to process why I am right and he is wrong before we come back together and discuss how right I am and how wrong he is. But in the soil of this life, I am so reassured to know that there are four heels dug deep into the earth. Two pairs of hands that grip this family with relentless commitment to keeping it sewn together.
He still makes me laugh out of my gut without trying. He still melts the stubborn out of my shoulders with one of his smothering hugs. He still walks between me and the road to keep me safe. He still gets my sarcasm without thinking I’m a horrible person. He still wants to hear about everything I did during the day, no matter how many descriptions of baby bowel movements that includes.
We aren’t going anywhere. My heart has found its counterpart, the piece that completes its shape and gives the familiar, dependable rhythm to the chaos of the everyday. Of that I am confident. Of him I am sure.
I love you, Dollface. And I am so comforted to get to stay put with you for always.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
P.S. Blogs count as Valentine’s gifts, right?