Ten years ago, I was living in a beautiful, newly renovated two bedroom house just off campus with my girlfriend. She had gotten the hook up from one of her professors who employed her for the summer, and I was invited to share the space with her as I took some fluff classes to satisfy a few graduation requirements before my senior year. We didn’t have to pay rent, just utilities, and a couple of poor chicks from Chicago could make it on relatively little electricity and water. I don’t even think we had a phone that could make calls farther than a mile away. We used phone cards (remember those?) for that.
I hated coming home in the summer. The only times I did were the two weeks between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer session. I enjoyed the independence of college, and I wanted to graduate in four years, not the five that most education majors at my school realized. I also had to write a thesis in order to graduate with honors and student teach in the spring, so summer school was a great way to get classes out of the way. One of the best parts about that summer , though, was that the house was across the alley from the frat house my husband (then boyfriend) lived in, so we were able to “hang out” a lot.
It was a great summer! I had moved that awkward freshman 15 rightfully to my butt, and my size four frame, which could still pull off a tube top and short shorts, was banging hot! The hubby hadn’t blown out his knee yet, so he was still squatting nearly 500 pounds, working out twice a day, and bulldozing dudes on the football field. My man still looks good, but if you had seen him at 21…whoa, baby! My husband, his frat brothers, my girlfriend, and I partied, shopped, and drank (I turned 21 that summer), and I squeezed in just enough homework to pull off easy A’s (they were summer courses, after all). We felt powerful and young! We were on the cusp of real life, but not yet responsible for it. That was a wonderfully sexy feeling, and I miss it sometimes.
Even back then I knew that I would marry my husband. I knew that he would be the father of my kids. And I knew that I would still anticipate his arrival home, just like I did when I was a kid waiting on him to get back from practice. He would come over to our place to shower (the frat house was ridiculous, and he had options), and we would laugh, eat, watch movies, make love, listen to music, and laugh and make love some more until one of us had something else to do with pressing urgency. When we would part, I could tell that he really loved me by the way he looked at me. Something fiercely emotional rested in his eyes, and when he kissed me, it was like he might not ever see me again. I was so in love with him, and I knew he was in love with me.
Today, we were home together for the first time in a long time (and probably the last time for a long time) with absolutely nothing to do except clean the house. Usually, that enterprise is daunting, and today was no exception, but instead of listening to the latest rap music, which is his favorite, he decided to put on my music, the R&B which hearkens back to those years we spent together in college. So as Angie Stone, India Arie, Jill Scott, Carl Thomas, Darnell Jones, and the rest of the crew sang to us, we swept and danced, moved and grooved, purged and swirled in this newer life…together.
And as I cleaned in a shapeless, over-sized nightgown, hiding stretch marks and a protruding belly, hitting high notes, off-key but totally spirited, to make him laugh, I noticed something in his eyes as he watched me that reminded me of him ten years ago. In that moment, we were transported back to that summer house, without crayon and marker on the walls, without kids screaming about who hit whom, without bills that amount to more than our income, without pressure, without stress, without worry. It was just the two of us, for the tiniest, most significant moment, looking at each other like love-struck kids, hoping that we would be together for the rest of our lives.