After accepting Keith’s proposal to try again, we started dating in earnest and were quickly a couple.
It wasn’t long before we were wildly in love and experiencing the kind of absolute certainty about our pairing that convinced us that we’d won some kind of Cosmic Love Lottery.
We were blissed out in a way I’m not sure I’ll ever experience again unless I start recreationally using Benzos.
Despite our quick march toward commitment, there were still more early bumps–namely his constant need to point out how much every woman we passed on the street or saw across the bar wanted to fuck him. He had a similarly-foul persistence in trying to get me to use the Sephora employee discount of a girl he’d slept with a few days before meeting me (thanks, but I like my makeup without a side of snatch).
And his drinking.
Oh, his drinking.
The “other women want me” stuff was, I believed, a purposeful effort to control my image of him–to be sure I saw him as a hot commodity that I was lucky to have and to make me feel insecure.
Keith was super handsome, something I appreciated very much and had no doubt other women appreciated, too, but I was still– objectively–the one in our pairing with more social capital and I knew it. He knew it, too.
The real luck then was his, for I attributed his obnoxious behavior not to him being a giant asshole, but rather as an unfortunate response to all the damage done to his masculinity and self-worth by his vicious ex-wife (we’ll meet her later).
But I still didn’t excuse the behavior and his attempt to stifle my confidence died a quick death as he learned that I was not the one for such bullshit. The End.
Then the drinking.
Early on, he only drank when we went out on the weekends to drink and dance. The problem was that once he started drinking, he couldn’t stop and it seemed to hit him all at once and HARD.
I worried about this, but believed that his extreme reaction was due more to the gastric bypass (alcohol bypasses the stomach and goes right to the bloodstream) and less about quantity consumed, though he was definitely drinking too much.
With that equation in mind, I was somewhat forgiving when, the first time he ever met my friends–and despite my request to please moderate his drinking for the occasion–he got so incapacitated in a busy club that before he fell down and got thrown out, one of my male friends had to lift him off his feet and carry him to the exit through a sea of curious people. I followed, embarrassed not only at the public scene, but that my friends had just been introduced to a maniac.
My friend got Keith outside and kindly assured me that no one was judging us, that Keith seemed like a nice guy who just didn’t know when to give it a rest with the booze and that “we’ve all been there.” I thanked him and took it from there.
I navigated to my car quietly, focused mostly on keeping Keith upright.
Then, as I opened the passenger door to usher him in, I said, “Listen, I love you, but you have got to stop getting this drunk.”
It was just a figure of speech, but Drunk Keith only heard “I love you.”
He gasped, his eye filled with tears, and he asked, “You LOVE me?!?”
This was Thanksgiving Eve and the next day I was going to spend the holiday with and meet his whole family for the first time, including his children. This was a big step that no man had ever wanted to take with me before and I was excited and emotional.
I looked at his stupid drunken face and realized that I actually did love him. I confirmed, “Yes, I love you.”
He told me he loved me, too. “Do you understand how much I love you? I want to marry you!” He’d known for weeks, he said, but was waiting for me to say I love you first so he wouldn’t he’d scare me away.
As we drove home, the realization that HOLY FUCK I WAS IN LOVE and someone was in love with me in return hit me hard. I just kept saying, “I love you!” “I’m in love with you!” “I’m totally, super in love with you!” And from the passenger seat he cried and cried.
The next day, we arrived at Thanksgiving, a force of love and affection and deviled eggs.
Two people in love, committed, a now permanent couple there to introduce themselves to all the important people in Keith’s life.
It was a day of familial bliss and ultimately the most important day of my life–though I didn’t know it then– because it was the day I met his children.
That’s it’s own story, of course, but Thanksgiving was the happy ending of the rough beginning and the beginning of the one of the happiest times of my life.