I’ve always thought that Two and I were at our best in extreme weather.
When it was hot out, Two would leave first thing for a three-hour run. While he was gone, I’d sit in front of the AC unit and text him links to websites that explained how he’d probably die running in such extreme heat.
I’d inspect my mosquito bites from the night before. Without him there to scold me, I’d scratch them until they bled. When he’d return, I’d act normal, tucking my legs up under me so he wouldn’t see the welts. He’d give me a cool, salty kiss and head for the shower. I’d resume scratching.
Later, we’d set out for the beach. He’d grab his bike and find me some janky old one with the seat set way too high. My eyes, blinking from the sting of sweat and sunscreen, were useless. I’d have to pedal along toward the sound of his voice, which I could occasionally make out over the clanging of the bike chain.
He loved lying about how far we had to go. “Just another three miles,” he’d call back to me. And I’d groan and drop all my weight onto the pedal, swerving probably into the beach traffic, but who knows. By the time I righted myself, he’d already be standing there near a patch of reeds, dismounted, laughing at me.
One time in Argentina, it was too hot to do anything other than pose for photos in my silk sundress. In one, I scowled at a catcaller. In another, I stood in front of a statue of Pope Francis, his hand outstretched. Two arranged the photo so it would look like the pope was touching my boob. That one was his favorite. Lucky for me, he got his kicks just threatening to post it on Facebook and didn’t actually do it.
That afternoon, we stopped for a drink at a sidewalk cafe. I left him with my stuff for a few minutes to go see about a restroom. When I returned–quietly and from behind–I caught him scrolling through the dozens of selfies he had apparently taken on my phone in the few minutes I was away. He was just testing the camera, was his defense.
I won that round of our ongoing game of “Who’s less vain?” But when we got up to leave, my victory was subverted when Two observed that I had sweat through the back of my dress. It’s hard to feel like a winner with a visibly sweaty ass.
Two knows how to dress for the cold. The man loves his knitwear. In the winter, we’d squeeze into the entranceway of his apartment to suit up. He’d try out several hat-scarf combinations before settling on the same one every time. “This hat’s kind of interesting, no? No?” We’d prop ourselves up on each other as we pulled our boots on. He’d warn me that I needed a hat, scarf, gloves, a heavier coat. He’d offer me one of his, a formless olive green thing, and I’d reject it on the grounds of not wanting to look ridiculous.
Outside, predictably, my ears would redden in the cold, and, at each corner, as we waited for the light to turn, he’d cup his hands over them to keep them warm. If he got bored, he’d kiss me.
Once, a blizzard grounded us for three days. The city shut down public transit, so I couldn’t get home. Before the worst of it, he took me to Citarella to stock up on blizzard provisions. Typical stuff: Marcona almonds, burrata, anchovies. He dragged me from cobbler to cobbler to find the right mink oil to protect my new Christmas boots from the coming storm. The man knows how to protect his leather goods. I dragged him from shop to shop to find some fresh underwear for the next day.
That night, we wound up at a shitty bar with his friends. It was just dark enough and everyone was just drunk enough for me to get away with slumping down in the booth, resting my head on Two’s shoulder, and just watching the night happen.
We didn’t know how long the snow had been falling when we reemerged into the night. Charles Street was empty. All distinctions were neutralized by the snow. The four or five of us rollicked through the void until Two slipped on a stretch of ice and pulled me down with him. Rolling around on the icy sidewalk, I wanted to laugh the way drunk people do when they fall, but my urge to laugh was offset by my need to pee, the way drunk people do at the end of the night. So I stiffened my body to avoid disaster, which is all one can do in such a situation. But just as one should never stiffen one’s body in the unlikely event of a bear attack–lest one make oneself easier to maul–one should never stiffen one’s body when Two is groping in the dark for something solid to lean on as he tries to stand on ice.
There we were, in the cold, caught in a web of our own contradictory urges. Meanwhile, down the street at his apartment, the almonds and the anchovies, the mink oil and the new underwear sat in silence in a pile of bags on his kitchen counter.
I’m supposed to use this post for relationship advice, so here it is:
There will be a moment in every relationship when you’ll learn if the person sitting across the table from you can bear being human, or if they are so repulsed by their own vulnerability that they can be nothing but repulsed by yours.
Don’t worry about that moment until it comes. Don’t wait for it. You’ll go mad. No. Just bundle up and buy some anchovies and mink oil. Sit in front of the AC and scratch your bites until they bleed. Put your head on his shoulder. Pose for the photo. Pedal along.
But when that moment does come, as inevitably it will, and you can see that the person sitting across the table from you hates darkness, complexity, and therefore you: leave.
Either that or move to an extreme climate where you’ll be too uncomfortable to notice the difference.