My husband does not often give me compliments — it’s not his way. I can make a huge effort to get all dolled up for a night on the tiles and come downstairs looking better than he’s seen me in years, and he won’t say a word (…until I clear my throat). I have to remind him to give me a kiss when he gets home from work. And I know that something’s going really quite wrong in his world when he suddenly looks up and tells me he loves me.
And yet, I don’t worry — I know he loves me. I don’t know how I know, because the outward signs come so few and far between, but I do know. It’s an inexplicable sense of security, a feeling of stability that I’ve never known with anyone but him.
By the time you read this, he will be back here with us after spending the past fortnight in Britain — a trip we were all going to take together, but that the present economy and that voice in the back of my head told us would be better made on his own again this year. And so I’ve been unable to lend much support as he’s gone about the bittersweet business of visiting with old friends, his mother, his brother and sister, and, most importantly, his two older children. Speaking to him on the phone each night, he never says much — again, it’s not his way — but his silence spoke volumes. The first week of the trip, it crackled with excitement and, as the second week has rushed away, that crackle has gone and the silence has simply grown heavy and… more silent. He does not want to come back.
But we are here and he loves us. And so until I (or he… or we…) can figure out a way to get back to the UK, he will come back to us here. Because we are a pair, he and I. And though he drives me mad, and though I wonder regularly how on earth we ever got together, I do honestly believe we will never be apart.
As I drove him to the airport a fortnight ago, I knew he was a mess of mixed emotions — nervous and excited and afraid of the upcoming reunions, all at the same time. And almost on cue, all those swirling feelings boiled over and he erupted into one of those rare emotional outpourings — he looked at me for a long moment, and then said. “You look nice.”
It had surprised me, but I kept my gaze ahead out the windscreen, and smiled only a little. “Thanks.”
But he didn’t look away, and I realised there was more. I turned, smiling amusedly now, and looked at him still looking at me. The morning sun was ahead of us and I could feel its rays falling golden — and, I thought, conveniently flatteringly — onto my face.
“Yeah,” he said, looking at my face intently, his eyes moving over my cheeks, my eyes, my forehead, assessing me as he might a prize horse. “You look nice. I think you’re aging well.”
I laughed out loud at that. As compliments go, it wasn’t much. And yet it was — it was a wonderful compliment — and honest too. As honest as he is, as honest as the way we feel about each other. I grinned at him, and he reached over and grabbed my hand, and gave it a squeeze.
It’s as much affection as he’d shown in days. If I’m honest, I wish he were more affectionate — I’d like outpourings of love to flow around us like water, to be as regular and numerous as they were when I was growing up. But that is not his way. He is who he is, and I love him. I cannot ask for anything more.