The other morning I woke up my absolute favorite way: Being hugged by someone I love.
I felt Justin’s arms around me as I came to. As I opened my eyes, I noted he wasn’t in the bed but standing over it, fully dressed as though he’d been up for a while.
“The package guy brought something for you,” he said.
I smiled. Told him I loved him, I think — the first moments upon waking are always so blurry. Whatever I say then is spoken automatically. Deeply internalized, automatic. Invariably when I talk in my sleep because I’ve been bumped or stirred, Justin tells me that I typically say “I love you” over and over again.
I got out of bed then, realizing that he’d been up for who knew how long and I was the lazy potato who was still asleep. And besides, my bladder was full.
A thought sprung into my head as I shuffled out of bed: A package for me? That’s funny. I didn’t order anything.
After visiting the bathroom, I walked into the living room. “That’s weird,” I said. “It smells like coffee in here.”
This new home has never smelled like coffee before. That’s because my coffeepot broke in the move. It was the one thing that didn’t make it. Everything else arrived intact, but of course I had to mess something up (to be fair, we did move rather quickly, and I had a lot to pack). I silently kicked myself for weeks for not wrapping it correctly. The electric kettle made it just fine. So we’d both switched to tea.
I hadn’t made coffee at home for months, only grabbing it on a few occasions at a coffee shop.
Justin laughed. “I got you a pour-over system,” he said, showing it to me. He showed me how it worked. He’d also taken the liberty of making me the first cup.
“You’ll have to let me know what you think. If it’s too weak, I can adjust the grind settings,” he continued.
“You know,” I said, as I sipped that first cup. “You are so sneaky. I’m glad you don’t use your powers for evil because you could destroy me.”
He laughed again.
When Throwaway Comments Boomerang
It was meant as a quick one-off joke, but like a lot of throwaway comments I make in passing, it boomeranged almost immediately. It became something I couldn’t stop thinking about.
In the past, these silent mental repetitions easily bloomed into anxiety. They could become neuroses.
In the past, when a thought boomeranged, it would have turned into something like this: “He really could destroy me, couldn’t he? What important negative things might I have missed because he’s so clever at hiding things? What terrifying threats could be lurking around the corner now that he’s earned my trust?”
But as I sat there this time, thinking over that idea, that I’m glad he’s on my team, that he likes me and wants to make me happy, instead of working against me and looking to obliterate me, it stayed an amusing observation, a harmless joke. I couldn’t muster a single drop of fear.
Not normal for me at all. I’ve always been someone who has a hard time trusting other people. My brain naturally spins out contingencies. Plans B through Z.
When I first moved in with him about a decade ago, I had advertisements for local efficiency apartments handy, knowing that I could call a number easily and tour them should it look like things weren’t going to work out. I kept my possessions in a configuration that meant they would be easily and quickly packed should he suddenly decide I was too much and kick me out in the middle of the night.
That sort of thing was my normal way of operating.
But ten years later, everything’s different. I can’t frighten myself with a simple joke anymore, the way I could in the old days.
Is This What It’s Like to Trust Someone?
“I wonder if this is what it’s like to trust someone,” I say to myself later in the shower. There is, of course, no reply.
And as I write this essay, I think about how that itself should terrify me, that I’ve finally let my guard down, exposed my soft underbelly. That I have no contingency plans for him, for this.
And I think about how this should scare me more than it does.
This is not to say that it doesn’t scare me at all, on any level. That I never worry about it ending. Because I do sometimes, fed a steady diet of negative messages about middle age and impending obsolescence as a woman. I still find myself wondering what someone so special is doing with me and noting that it could all come crashing down when he realizes he’s in error, that I’m not what he seems to think I am.
Or when he decides I haven’t changed the way he hoped I would. Or that I’ve changed in a way that he hoped I wouldn’t.
But those worries are less frequent than they used to be. And they lack the old heat. The old terror. And that’s really something.
The coffee tastes perfect.
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