HBDQT / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 14 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group.”

Today is Ryan’s birthday. For his birthday he is cleaning out our basement, yay. But also I got him underwear and t-shirts which he doesn’t know about yet because I haven’t wrapped them. We decided this morning that I would just give him his presents and card tonight.

“I’m easy,” he reminded me. “You know me.”

I do, in fact, know him. So: 

“Is this one of those things where you tell me you’re easy, but really you’re disappointed that I didn’t have them wrapped this morning because you usually have my presents wrapped and the card written out when I wake up?” 

“What? <incredulous> No. I told you—I’m easy.”

That’s generally-but-not-always true, and it’s the role of life partners to reflect those truths to each other.

This morning we went for birthday coffee. Every once in a while we go on a family walk to the coffee shop down the street. My child is habitually naked and doesn’t understand why he has to wear clothes in public. I tell him he has to know the rules before he can choose which ones to break. He chose to break the one which suggests he wear underpants under his shorts. Ride free, little one. 

We packed Jonah up in his stroller and walked the third of a mile to Alfred. One of the great things about Ryan is the enthusiasm he has for most things. His stories are animated and engaging. Do you know that thing though where when you’ve been with someone a while sometimes you tune out the details because you fill in the blanks with past experience instead? I do this a lot. Fortunately I didn’t do it this morning because I would have missed two beautiful descriptions he gave about the time last week he got coffee at Stories in Echo Park, in which he ran into the aging lead singer of an 80s band with a cult following. 

I am going to fail in capturing his clever descriptions as he told the story: 

  • “In walked two hipster rockers with all the right tattoos. They had that ‘famous but not familiar’ look.” Famous but not familiar. I love the specificity of that and its suggestion—but not promise—of future greatness. 
  • Of their friend, the aging rocker: “He had that Seattle tech guy vibe: you know, thicker cotton-flannel shirt, jeans, and the kind of Vans I could be invisible in.” I knew exactly what he meant. For Ryan, a former sponsored skateboarder, the type of Vans you wear has meaning. It’s not dissimilar from my yoga teaching days in which I used to also speak in code: “Well I mean, she wears Hard Tails.” (Are those still even a thing? Am I horrible? Ugh.)

When we first started dating he would subtly appeal to my interests by casually dropping the articles he used to write for a local newspaper. I remember the simple and poetic way he wrote about cheesemaking. It stood out to me because I am rarely struck by fluidity in journalism. Also, cheesemaking. So cute.

Anyway, I love when you still find new things about someone you’ve been with 7 ½ years. It seems fitting that that happens today, on his birthday.