Before we were a family there was just us. Just me and you, Husband, documented with a cheesy mirror we found in a gas station just outside of Reno. “Just Us, Always,” it said, in fat red script with hearts and roses like the ones found in the package of rub-on tattoos our daughter now loves so much.
Back then we told each other everything. Direct, unfiltered, uncomplicated. We wrote each other love letters in bad Italian and took bad polaroids wearing too little clothes. Now we write Post It notes for each other that say things like “YARD THIS WEEKEND!” or “TAKE OUT GARBAGE!” Now we pick up stacks and stacks of photos from Costco all centered around the same angelic subject, with us barely noticeable, hanging around the periphery like bloated and very tired-looking ghosts.
Before you were the father of my child, you were my husband, my best friend, my keeper of secrets. This year, for Father’s Day, I have no watch, no razor, no baseball tickets for you. This year, you get me, and my confessions.
I miss the way we were. I miss you and me and motel rooms. Hotel rooms. Sleazy, smoke encrusted, dressed up, dark, hot, air conditioned, middle of the road, four star, no star, cold tight sheets, ice machines, tiptoes, empty, used, just used rooms. The anonymity of them. The proximity of them; to each other, to naughtiness, to mystery, freedom. To fantasy.
I miss the jingle of the key, or the card, that lets you in. The newly dried shower, the mini bar, the bottle of booze, the plastic tumblers. I miss the ashtrays. The lack of clutter. The thick shades. The unfiltered light. The discolorations. The late night TV. The sex channels. The giant, firm, center-of-the-whole-room, of the whole world, bed.
I miss sitting at a Formica vanity, putting on makeup, pulling up stockings. I miss crotchless panties, legs spread just enough at the hotel bar. I miss sitting there, pretending. Pretending I’m alone. Pretending you’re not looking at me. Pretending I don’t know you. I miss taking you home, like a stranger, to a strange room. I miss the feel of ripping fishnet, breaking like spider web against my thighs as you take what you need, hungry with mystery and anonymity. Never mind the credit card has both our names on it. Never mind you’d punch the lights out of anyone else caught looking.
I love the way we are. I love the gray taking over your beard. I love your belly, all full and content. I love being the wife of the sexy-devoted-dad-guy the girls at the coffeeshop all have the hots for. I love that you make a lot of money and say it’s mine, without question; I know you work hard, harder than I know. I love hating how difficult you can be (because, really, you can be).
I love the way we go to Ikea early on Sunday and drop our daughter at the childcare play area for up to one glorious hour. I love pushing the cart together, hands touching. I love laying side by side on the model beds, playing footsie while shoppers stroll by. I love how we stop in front of the men’s room and flirt, imagining for a minute we had the courage to actually do what we’re both thinking about. I can tell you’re thinking about it too because you stand, agitiated, for an extra couple seconds behind a low bookshelf before we move on. I love that.
I dream of how we will be. I dream our children are almost grown; they are beautiful, strong, unruly teenagers. I dream we lie to them, ditching out on soccer games, and S.A.T. preparations and whatever work we’ve aquired by then. We tell them we’re on separate business trips but instead we plan a rendevous at the Starlight Motel in Reno. On the plane I am giddy and foolish; I’m much too old for this. You’re three rows up, I brush against you on the way to the bathroom and for the first time in many years, I blush.
At the motel, we pretend to not to know each other, but it’s obvious we do. The hotel clerk is on to us. She’s seen this kind of thing before. In my dream we check into different rooms and I flip on the TV and listen to the sounds of low-budget sex. In my dream I forget your snoring, forget how hard it has been, forget that I get bored. In my dream I sit naked in front of the mirror. I imagine you undressing me, seeing the body you have known forever. I touch myself, touch the fine white lines of various scars that map our life together: that damn motorcycle, the cesareans, the creases under my eyes from stupid, stupid, such stupid fights.
Tonight, in my dreams, I imagine I put on a red wig with short bangs that makes me look — I hope — young and cheap. I walk to your door wearing more makeup than usual and less clothes. You are surprised, but not. We drink whiskey from a bottle and kiss, igniting lost tastes and desires and dreams. I dream you tremble at how well we fit, still, after all this time. We are a puzzle, you and I, with matching pieces, image unfinished. I dream we take pictures and giggle at the thought of our kids one day finding them.
I dream that on the plane home we hold hands and talk about buying an RV. We will travel the country solving crimes and stalking our kids, who have left for greener pastures. We will hook up with other golden agers, we will embarrass our children, we will pull the whole rig over just for a hand job. And up on the dash, along with recent photos and letters, will be a small faded mirror that will remind us of better times and worse times, and most importantly of times when it was “Just Us, Always.”