Today is Jeff's birthday! It is also Jon Hamm's birthday, as well as the birthday of a Pakistani cricketer named Ijaz Butt. Coincidence? I think not. There are also two Gaylords born on March 10--Gaylord Birch, drummer, 1946, and Mitch Gaylord, gymnast, 1961--which is funny because every time we drive up to see his family in Massachusetts, Jeff laughs at the sign for the Gaylord Rehabilitation Center, and I have to sternly remind him that my grandfather stayed there following his aortal aneurysm, and he keeps laughing anyway, and I suddenly feel like Mary Kay LeTourneau because I am married to a twelve year-old. (Also, I am turning a blind eye to the fact that March 10 also happens to be the birth date of James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, and Osama bin Laden.)
Last year I did a faux-inappropriate post about the time he gave me birthday head (don't worry, it's just a sneaky play on words, totally safe for work... and for children, assuming they are too young or too naive to get colloquial references to oral sex), so this year I figured I'd try something new and be, like, sincere. You may remember a terribly earnest (and somewhat cringe-inducing in hindsight) prose poem I wrote for my beloved that began "Once upon a time I fell in love with you on a bridge."
Well, gather 'round, children, because I am going to tell you that story.
The year? 2003. The night? April 12 (one day before my 23rd birthday). There's a whole lot of rambling backstory to how Jeff and I started flirting, involving tango and beers and a trucker hat bearing the likeness of Pit Pat from Mr. Show, but all you really need to know is that one day earlier that spring I showed up at an art gallery in Chelsea not wearing a bra and the rest is basically history. Anyway. So Jeff and I had been flirting for a few weeks, and on the evening of April 12, 2003, he called me and asked what I was doing. I had just come from a giant high school-themed dance party, to which I wore a wife-beater and baggy jeans (I fancied myself the Mary Stuart Masterson character from Some Kind of Wonderful) and was now showing off my butch plumber costume to a group of friends at a trendy Lower East Side bar, where a college acquaintance was celebrating her birthday (in keeping with the high school theme, I was also wearing a backpack in lieu of a purse). Though he didn't know many people there, Jeff joined us for a drink, and when I started getting ready to leave just after midnight, he seemed disappointed.
"Let me walk you out," he said as I wrestled with my Jansport. It was now the wee hours of my birthday.
We left the bar and walked over to the Bowery. It was a warm night and we took our time wandering through the streets, still busy in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I don't remember what we talked about--we still didn't know each other yet, and I was nervous in that way you get nervous when you start to suspect that the boy walking you to get a cab might be more than just the boy walking you to get a cab--but I remember what Jeff said when we came to the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge:
"Let me walk you home."
Home was in Brooklyn, three miles away, across a river. It was two o'clock in the morning. I think I said something really articulate and classy, like "Um, excuse me?" It was like Jane Austen was feeding me lines, Roxanne-style.
"C'mon, it's nice out." Jeff lived over 200 blocks in the opposite direction. He was going way out of his way. He was cute. And he wanted to walk me home even when I was dressed like Natty Gann (rent it!). So I said yes.
(Here I feel the need to add a note to any non-New Yorkers: The Manhattan Bridge is not the Brooklyn Bridge. It is like the Brooklyn Bridge's runty little brother. No one ever says, "Let's walk across the Manhattan Bridge!" This is because the Manhattan Bridge walkways are tiny and claustrophobic and surrounded by the kinds of fencing commonly seen at maximum security prisons. But for the sake of this story, it's the most romantic place on earth, so just go with it.)
We started walking, and I told him it was my birthday.
"What's your favorite birthday memory?" he asked.
"This one's got potential," I replied, because, in my heart of hearts, I aspire to be Lloyd Dobler.
We smiled at each other. We looked out at the city lights. At one point, we tangoed. We never kissed, never even came close, but I felt like... something important was happening. Normally I'm skeptical when people say that they knew, the first moment they laid eyes on their future spouse, that they were The One. I'd seen Jeff many times before, and, quite frankly, I hadn't always given him a second thought. But that night, on that bridge, I knew. I may not have known in my head, but I knew it in my bones. April 13, 2003 was the day I knew I'd met my husband.
So I guess it was really my birthday that started it all. But the point is that the man I love--my escort, my tango partner, my restless night owl, my perfect match--was born today. And without him, this wouldn't be a story. Without him, I'd have spent that birthday as just another fashion-challenged tomboy high schooler trying to hail a cab. Without him... I shudder to think.
(By the way, when we got off the bridge, he picked me a daffodil and sang to me and we had cheeseburgers at a 24-hour diner. And he made good on his promise. He walked me to my door, hugged me tight, and then turned around, at 4 am, to make the 90-minute trip back home. I know a keeper when I see one.)
Happy birthday, darling. I love you so much I want to throw up all over my legs.