My wife put Maraschino cherries on the shopping list and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to find the damned things in the store today. Fortunately, I stumbled into the guy who stocks the shelves.
(I’m convinced that other than the cashiers and manager on duty there is never more than one uniformed employee in the store, and often less. Hence “the” guy and not “a” guy.)
“Excuse me. Do you know where they keep the Maraschino cherries?”
“Cherries? Like for ice cream sundaes or for making mixed drinks?”
“Ah, si,” he said, then led me briskly toward the Baking Supplies aisle. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure I was keeping up. “You making drinks or dessert?”
“My wife, actually. She’s rediscovered the lost art of mixing exotic drinks,” I replied.
By now we’d arrived at the cherries. He reached up, then paused to look at me. “You want the big jar, yes?”
“Oh. I see you’ve met my wife. Yeah, I want the big jar.”
“Nice for you,” he shot back with a conspiratorial wink. He then handed me a jar of cherries we’d be able to live off of for days if Casa de Wyatt takes a direct hit in the next hurricane. I didn’t want to admit I’d mistaken the giant jar for display advertising so I took it and thanked him.
“A real party girl, eh?” he continued, grinning ear to ear.
“I take it back then. You obviously haven’t met my wife. When I say ‘exotic drinks’ I basically mean a shot of whiskey poured over a glass of cherries.”
Poor guy looked so crestfallen, I actually felt bad. I wondered if I’d just confirmed his worst fears about long-term monogamy. An image flashed in my head of me declaring in a booming voice “… sentence you to life, with no possibility of parole,” and then slamming The Gavel of Thor down onto my desk. I decided to let him off the hook.
“It’s not really a party if there’s just two people, no loud music or dancing, and you go to bed early, right?”
He brightened back up as if a switch had been flipped.
“I don’t know Señor, sounds like a party to me.”
“If you say so,” I replied and thanked him again.
We went our separate ways, the stock guy’s faith in sex after marriage apparently restored and me looking forward to my wife getting a bit tipsy and falling asleep in my arms watching TV tonight, then putting her to bed early, kissing her forehead, and tucking her in.
Funny thing is, I remember being that stock guy. I couldn’t tell you when it happened but at some point I began to feel a great sense of fulfillment in being the one person in the world who makes my wife would feel so loved and so safe that she falls asleep in my arms, not out of sheer exhaustion after a hard day, but because it is special.
Do I feel guilty misleading complete strangers? If he’s in a relationship long enough to experience emotional intimacy that far surpasses the mere physical then I won’t have lied to him. He’ll understand at that point that a party is whatever the people in attendance say it is. Which is why when I tuck my wife in tonight and kiss her, I will lean in and whisper gently in her ear, “Party on darlin’. I love you , too.”