I suppose there’s very little, if anything at all, I could do to surprise you now seeing how well you know me. I hadn’t fully grasped just how well you have come to know me until the other day when we were sat in bed watching random YouTube videos, as all normal couples do. I had gone quiet for a second, thinking about how I could really use some apple juice, but dragging my then tired legs to the kitchen seemed too arduous an effort. You then paused the video and went, “Look at me.”
“You need apple juice, don’t you?” you said when our eyes met.
“How did you…”
“I just know,” a proud smile spreading across your face. “I’ll get some for you.”
I was nonplussed. How was it that could you take one little glance at me and know exactly what I wanted, what I needed? What, are you able to hear my silence now? Do my silences differ from one another? Are there discrepancies in my silences so that this one signifies one thing, and another something else? I wondered how many other things you could deduce from just looking at me, how many other times I needn’t say anything because a gesture, my posture or whatever else gave it all away, how many times you acted, unbeknownst to me even, based on your ability to read me, to read my mind.
And I only figured it out this morning. As we left the house, I asked whether or not you were alright, and you said, “Yeah, I’m okay." You proceeded to hug me, wrapping your arms around my torso, holding on a little longer than usual. And it occurred to me that I know you. I just know you. I have come to know you, and you me. We have learnt one another. See, I know that you are nervous when you start twiddling your thumbs, and that you are uncertain when you bite your lower lip. I know that you are afraid when you lock your arm into mine at the elbow as opposed to interlocking our fingers, and that you are emotional when you hands-around-my-waist, instead of tip-toe-hands-around-my-neck hug me. I know that you are h-angry when all your responses are in “yes, no, mm-hmm and uh-uhs”, and that you are bored or uninterested when you can’t sit still, fidgeting all over the place. I know that “I’m okay” instead of “I’m alright” is code for “something’s wrong but I’m not ready to talk about it”, and that you are really flattered when you roll your eyes. I know that you start all your lies with “uhm, yeah”, the same way you said, “Uhmm, yeah. Yes, I did remember to do that,” when I asked whether or not you had ordered your brother’s suit - which I went ahead and ordered by the way. I know when are sad, happy or upset because your emotions fill your eyes, because you speak with your eyes. I know you so well that words are but a confirmation, if not a mere formality. And you know me just as much. Hence, the apple juice.
Because I understand that to be known is to be loved, this epiphany had initially morphed into an ineffable joy and my heart brimmed. But it also came with a fright that has been sat in the pit of my stomach since. I started thinking about how it is probable that this could be our plateau stage, that we have climbed up one end and gotten to the highest possible point beyond which we cannot climb, that we have known each other so well that there is nothing more to learn, that there’s hardly room for any more curiosity - which is particularly a bad thing for us both seeing how we get bored, rather than content, by things we cannot question further - that this is the point where excitement becomes elusive and that the other end of this is a steep fall.
A silly thought perhaps. An overthought thought even (is that a thing?). But it suddenly became important to me that there be things about you I do not know, that there be things about you I remain curious about: I still do not know your favorite color because you change your mind way too often; remember when I got you that blue oversized sweatshirt I saw on the way home and stuck to the back of it a note that said, “just because you love blue”?
“Aww, thank you. I really like it,” you said “Blue isn’t my favorite color anymore but I really, really like this.”
“What do you mean blue isn’t your favorite, bro? It was your favorite color just last week.”
“Well, yes, bitch, but that was last week. I changed my mind,” you said, and we burst out laughing. I do not know your favorite meal because you’ll eat whatever’s available. I still never know your schedule since you hardly ever plan things out because “plans go to shit anyway.” When we go to bed every night, I always wonder who I am going to wake up to the next morning: my hardworking, goal-oriented wife or my “fuck it, I don’t want to get out of bed today” wife ( whom I both love) because you are so paradoxical. That is why you are still fairly unpredictable even to me. I still don’t know whether you work as hard as you do because you are just really motivated or because you are petrified of failure, or if the two are synonyms to you. There’s quite a number of things I do not know about you, things I do not want to know just yet. Is that absurd? Is it weird that I do not want to fully know you right now, that I wish to remain curious? Is it normal that four years in, I still feel the need to continue exploring who you are and what you could be, that I do not feel ready to stop just yet? Better yet, does knowing you then mean that there will be nothing more to explore? Do people ever get to that point?
Perhaps a better way to phrase all this is that I do not want to become too familiar with you, that I am afraid of what familiarity could do to us. See, familiarity breeds ingratitude and complacency. We tend to lose appreciation for that to which we have become accustomed to having. Maybe that is because its presence starts to feels like a norm, like it ought to be there. Maybe we begin to think that to be present is its job, that we deserve its presence thus it merits no plaudits for it. That is why we are ungrateful for the moon and the sun, why we aren’t appreciative of the ability to walk, talk or hear. It is as though Heaven owes us these things, as though they are mere by-the-ways. And I just... I do not want to become so familiar with you that you too become a by-the-way, that I do not see you anymore, that I begin to feel more deserving than I do appreciative of your being around, of all that you are and all that you do for me.
In 40 years, when we are old and frail, the many tales of the lives we have lived plastered into the wrinkles on our skins, when the few strands of hair on our heads are all grayed out, when the most mundane things, like an indigo sunset or chirping birds, will be more than enough to excite us both; when we will argue about who has the most teeth left and make fun of how long it takes either of us to stand up, I still want to see you, to truly see you. I still want to see you and feel as though it were the first time I laid my eyes on you, feel the same way I do when I see you every morning, to still see you in the same light that has me say to you every so often, “When I see you, the world does not stop. The earth does not quake. In fact, no one knows a thing about it. But I know that right there, in front of me, stands my entire universe.” I still want to laugh at the jokes you have told me a billion times over. I still want to get startled when you wrap your arm around mine. I still want to randomly say, “Lu, thank you for being here now,” as though you had not been around all along, as though I had just noticed you there. I still want to say, “Thank you for hearing me out,” when you let me bawl my eyes out as though you had not done so before. I still want to be caught off guard when you randomly call me on a Wednesday afternoon and go, “Chipo, I have something important to tell you.”
“Yeah? What’s wrong?”
“I love you, bye,” and you hang up before I can say anything.
In 45 years, I still want to be amazed by how selfless, thoughtful and kind you are, how you do not ask that I always be a “man”, how you sometimes allow me to be a scared, vulnerable and uncertain kid; how you teach and correct me without ever being condescending; how even your demands begin with “could you please…?” or how quick you are to say “Thank you”; how you always pour my cup of tea before you do yours or how you fill my plate first; how you always go, “We could share it…” when there’s one slice of pizza left or how you let me shower first even when I lose the deciding thumb-war.
In 50 years, I still want to be mesmerized by your smile and its audacity to color up a gloomy day, to be hypnotized by your eyes and wonder how jealous the stars must be of their shine. I still want to write a thousand lines about how you must be Heaven’s messiest masterpiece and watch you roll your eyes when I read them to you. I still want to walk up to you on a Sunday morning when you have that chitenge on and your hair's a mess and go, “Shame, and they said I married up.”
In 55years, I still want to feel a sense of pride, whenever I say, “My wife this… my wife that…”, to be overwhelmed with contentment when realize all over again that it is you I am referring to, that it is indeed you I am married to. I still want you to be the first person I call whenever I am faced with anything because “you are Ms. Reliable. My superwoman. The one that has all the answers I do not.” I still want to look for you in the crowd at events, stare for a few seconds when I do find you, and give you our "you look fiiiine" nod when our eyes meet. I still want to be excited about coming home to you, to be entertained by simply talking to you, by listening to you, to be in awe of how much depth you have, in awe of how intelligent you are and how well-thought out, well formed all your opinions are. I still want to spend my entire lunch break writing you impromptu letters like this.
And in 60years, I still want to like you. Love is different. To love you regardless of everything is a conscious decision I have made. Every morning, I choose to love you, and I will continue to do so every day whether or not there be reason to. But “like” is different. I cannot choose to like you. “Like” demands reasons, demands justification. And I like that you laugh at my jokes or smile at my attempts at one. I like that you still call me by my name, and I by yours, because we never could transition to pet names. I like that I can call you “bro” mid-sentence and you retaliate with, “Well, bitch…” in response, as if to emphasize the gender difference. I like that I could be in awe of how incredibly smart a person you are one minute, and you’d be trying to step out of the car without unbuckling the seatbelt the very next. I like that you are confident enough to say, “I do not know,” and secure enough to never apologize for being flawed. I like that you are so independent a person, yet you still make room for me in your life. I like that we are so different, that we like being different from each other, that I am the planner and you are the spontaneous one, that I am the calm to your chaos, and you are the much needed disarray to my overrated orderliness, that I am me and you are you... yet we are also us. I like that you know when to be silent, that you understand that silence is okay, that ours are comfortable silences built intentionally, built on knowing that there’s nothing to say and that’s alright. I like how you feel like home, how your eyes feel like home, how around you feels like safety. I like that you like you me, that you are so accepting of me, that you like me as though I were the only likable being, as though my faultiness were perfection in itself. I like that your liking me makes me like me more, makes me feel likable. I like you.
And in 65 years, I want to like you all the same. To love you all the same. To see you as much as I do now. So, I refuse to know you just yet. I refuse to become too familiar with you, to give any room to an ounce of complacency. Does that make me a weird being or a good husband? You tell me.