I used to think Ex was a gentleman because for the first few months we dated, he made a point to open my door. During our long distance relationship, he also repeatedly drove to Philadelphia and even extended his stays so we could spend more time together. This was all undone when he made a stink about helping me paint my condo, about vacationing someplace other than Vermont and Florida, about loving me as-is because he felt I'd be more attractive if I shed twenty-five pounds.
I used to think Alaska could openly speak with me. On our third date, after the caviar appetizer but before the vacheron dessert, he told me things about his father that unquestionably altered his family's trajectory. It was the kind of confession that was raw and honest. Then, a few months later, he rang me at 6am to tell me he didn't love me, then he forgot my birthday with ease and without apology, and then he lied to me about where he was going because the truth involved another woman.
Then there was the boyfriend who lived in New York City and worked in the film industry. The one time he met me at Penn Station, an act solely in response to my request, he arrived sweaty and gross. "This was a good idea. I decided to run down here so I could get in some exercise." Under the sign identifying which train was arriving on what track, he beamed with pride at his ingenious idea of still making it all about him. I was nothing more than a guest in his home.
"I got these for you," E said the other night as he presented a bunch of bright pink tulips.
"They're beautiful!" The fuchsia hued petals glowed bright against the crisp green stems.
"But that's not the surprise. Wait, I'll be right back," he said before ducking into his bedroom and returning with a box.
I glanced at the gift and then back at E. His smile, so warm and bright, made me smile too. I released the tape holding the top together. There, neatly tucked within properly pressed tissue paper, was a lovely glass vase. Its shape was tall with a gentle widening at one side. While I prepared dinner, he filled the vase with water, set the tulips inside, and placed it on the table.
Later that night, I turned to E and said, "Being with you feels like home." He cocked his head a little the the side and admitted he didn't fully understand what I was saying. I paused, then tried to explain it better. "Being with you is safe and warm, welcoming and comfortable." He now grasped what I was saying, even though I left out the fact that it's the kind of home one never really wants to leave.