These are the first words I ever said to the Chef: “Do you want some coffee with your sugar?”
Really, I can’t believe I was such a snot.
Let me back up. Right around this time of year (or April 16, 2006, to be precise), the Chef first contacted me through the online dating service to which we were both subscribing. He winked at me. (This is pretty funny, considering that he is incapable of winking with his left eye, in real life. He tries. But he just ends up blinking both eyes, hard.)
I could have missed him.
You see, I had already canceled my subscription to that site. Six weeks of online dating had yielded only confused men, guys who didn’t make me laugh, and sad men who really needed a therapist instead. Fed up and ready to give up on dating entirely, I quit the site. “But you have five days left!” they said to me, in repeated emails. I didn’t care. Everyone they sent me seemed pale and strange. No more.
Curiosity got the best of me. Thank goodness for curiosity. The day before my subscription lapsed entirely, I went back to that email, just to check it, one more time, before I retired from dating. There were twenty or more emails and winks for me to peruse. I have to admit — I went through them with a certain smug satisfaction. “See? I was right. I don’t like any of these guys.”
His was the last one on the list. I swear. And when I saw his photograph, I paused. Something about him felt familiar. He looked warm and open. I hesitated — I was done! But always, I have hope. I clicked on his profile, and then I saw he was a chef.
And my first reaction? “Oh shit, now I have to meet him!”
He loves it when I tell this story.
We wrote back and forth, for ten days, talking about food and family. We couldn’t meet right away, because my best friend was visiting from LA. So we wrote. And he read this site. We made plans to meet for coffee.
That morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling of excitement in my gut. I tried to talk myself out of it — every other guy had been such a disappointment — but it kept bubbling up inside me.
It’s the same way I feel every night, when I drive toward the restaurant to see him, after a long day away from each other.
I arrived at the coffee shop early, to work on some writing. In fact, just before he walked in, I published this piece about helping my friend Sharon through her broken heart. (I know the date says April 23rd, but I post-dated it. I actually finished it just before my love arrived.) And so, I sat at a table, nursing a black coffee, writing.
When I saw him through the window, he looked so familiar.
He came in and stood in line for coffee. I caught his eye. I waved at him. And then I went back to my writing.
He loves my writing. Every time I read to him, he grows a little teary. He holds me and says, quietly, “You are such an amazing writer, sweet pea.”
Even then, I thought it a little odd that I felt so comfortable keeping him waiting. Shouldn’t I jump up and start conversation? It didn’t feel necessary, all that jumping and preening and pretending to know each other. I knew he’d come over, soon enough.
He walked toward me, and then he veered toward the bar to fix his coffee. At this point, I rose, to say the opening pleasantries. But by the time I had reached him, I saw the steady stream of sugar falling into his latte. And so, before I ever said hello to him, I slapped him on the arm and said, “Do you want some coffee with your sugar?”
I can’t believe it now.
But he loved it. He loves what a smart-ass I am.
At least half our days together now are spent laughing at some goony remark the other one has made. He has this breathy giggle, and I laugh like a hyena being choked when he sets me going. We hold each other, our backs arched, or my head falling toward his chest. That’s the best part of any day: laughing together in bed.
And now, those words sit in our sugar bowl, as a reminder every morning of the day we met.
We met this day, last year: April 26th. Today is our one-year anniversary.
As anyone who has read this site for more than five minutes knows, I adore the Chef. And he adores me. We are more than two people in love. We are lovers, we are each other’s best friends. We are partners, in everything in life. We are true companions.
This morning, we went back to that coffee shop, around the same time we had first met. He poured more sugar in his coffee and waited for me to poke him and make fun of him. We kissed each other. And then we sat across a small table from each other and talked about what this year has brought us.
This has been, without a doubt, the most spectacular year of my life. And for the Chef, as well. I could write about him all night, and never be done.
Instead, I will simply say this.
No one prepares you, in all the love stories and love songs and sappy poems and greeting cards, for what real love really is. Love is in the tiniest gestures and most fleeting of moments.
True love is feeling joyful because he is happy. I had no idea what fulfillment it would give me to see him bounding toward me, fully embodying his body, arms open and utterly alive. The Chef has come into himself this past year. When I met him, he was a smoker. He smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, for sixteen years. (It’s a restaurant thing.) After we had fallen in love, and I knew that he was every love song come true for me, he quit. I told him, “I want to grow old with you. I want to have children with you.” And he stopped. It was hard, but he did it. It has been eight months since he had a cigarette. I am so proud of him.
He is my breath.
A few months in, when we were first engaged and fully giddy, I thought about what it might feel like to be here: one full year together. It felt monumental, then.
But today? In all the best ways, it feels utterly mundane. We marked it — all day long he has been calling me from the restaurant to say Happy Anniversary — but there is no celebration besides our being together. After all, if the luck stays with us, this will be the first of many years together.
Also, we celebrate every day. Every morning, when we first wake up, we turn toward each other and say, I love you. We have promised ourselves — we will always do this. And since last year, April 26th was on a Wednesday, we start every Wednesday (sometimes at 12:01 on Tuesday night) by saying “Happy Wednesday, Sweetheart.”
I love the way he feeds me. I love feeding him.
Tonight, I am making him the dinner I wrote about in the headline of my online profile: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and flourless chocolate torte. He’ll help me do the dishes. There will be dancing in the kitchen.
And tomorrow morning, we will start the first day of year two.