Tag Archives: anniversaries

The hustler

What you might call our first date was, I believe, an arrangement to meet up at our university (in the last week of Easter break) and play some pool. With a friend, probably. To the uninformed viewer it might have seemed casual in the utmost. We might have had lunch in the totally unromantic UCD canteen first. Or maybe we pushed the boat out and got one of those little pizzas on the second floor. I should remember, but I don’t.

What I remember is the pool table. We went down to “The Trap”, which is what everyone called the pool tables and juke box in the basement of the Arts building, beside all the lockers, and put some coins in a table. I think we found our mutual friend (through whom we had first met two weeks earlier) down there; we certainly weren’t alone. It being the holidays, the place wasn’t thronged with students avidly avoiding lectures, but it wasn’t deserted either. Some people could reliably be found in The Trap no matter what the season or semester.

Now, don’t be imagining I’m some sort of pool shark. Tom Cruise and Paul Newman would wipe the floor with me in half a second flat. But ever since my friend and I used to push the white ball around the empty table in the Dunlaoghaire Motor Yacht Club with our hands, or watch the coloured balls lining up with those lovely clicks through the little window to the table’s innards, or even when my late lamented Uncle Brian tried to show me how to hold a cue at the age of about seven, I’ve had a sort of affinity for the game.

(My granny used to watch the snooker on TV. That took some concentration, before she got the color set.)

So B was the one who showed me how to play. (I won’t say “taught me” becuase that would imply that I have learned and am now able to do it.) I know the rules and can slide the cue towards the white ball and almost always make it hit one of the others. Something usually goes in a pocket eventually. I don’t really care. I love watching the skill of others, the ones who do know what they’re doing. I love the almost-frictionless roll of ball towards pocket, watching an engineer calculate the angles, or pretend to, hearing the satisflying click (or the rumble when the white goes down and you wait for the table to send it back to you).

So there we were on our date, having a nice game of pool, not exactly knowing where this was going or how to move things forward. I leaned on the table. I put my hand a little too close to where his hand was also leaning on the side of the table as we waited for our friend to take a shot. The sides of our little fingers touched, and a tiny electric shock went through me. That was enough. The direction was set. Fate was on notice.

Wednesday will be our ninth wedding anniversary, by the way.

We used to play a game of pool now and then, whenever we were in a bar with a pool table, with a couple of friends or just the two of us. I didn’t get any better, but I still enjoyed it. Last week on our vacation we had an early dinner one night in a not-very-Italian restaurant attached to a very American bar. We passed the pool table as we walked through the bar to our booth seats. I made a mental note of it. When dinner was over and ice-creams had been screamed for and ordered (politely) and said thank-you for (politely) I suggested we might just see if the pool table was still unused on our way out.

It was. Probably we should not have stopped for a quick game of pool in a bar with our seven year old and our four year old, but we did, and nobody cared, and it was fun. It was fun to impress the kids with this thing they had no idea we would ever do. It was fun to let them chalk our cues and retrieve the white ball and suggest what we might aim for next. They were just about old enough to keep their hands off the balls and the other cues for long enough for B to wipe the floor with my pathetic effort (it takes me most of a game to get my eye in, and it had been a few years) and clear the table, clonk clonk clonk, like a pro.

Or maybe I’m still just easily impressed by some people.

Mini pool table
Not to scale

XX

April Fool’s Day, we decided, was our relationship anniversary date. We weren’t quite sure, when we were established enough to be trying to figure it out, exactly which day the party had been on, but it was the last Thursday of the Easter break from college that year. Not that we were officially “going out” instantly – it took a few weeks, maybe a month, to be sure we were allowed use the boyfriend/girlfriend tag for each other. We knew it had been about a week after B had turned 20, so April first seemed right. I decided not to be insulted by the date’s practical-joke connotations. It was an omen of laughter, nothing more.

But it’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since I first heard all of Negotiations and Love Songs for the first time, whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon in his house. What makes it sound so long ago is that it was before we’d ever sent an e-mail, before we’d seen a digital camera, long before we all had phones we could take with us, before anyone had thought of Facebook or Twitter or blogging. We managed to conduct a romance perfectly well without text messages or status updates. We called each other on the home phone; when we arranged to meet in town, we showed up. We used payphones now and then. There was cherry blossom and Paul Simon and pizza and the last Dart home and losing whole afternoons in kisses. And missing the last Dart home.

That was the first beginning, of course. There were endings and beginnings a-plenty again after that, because we both had other things to do and people to see and places to go. It was eleven and a half years before we sealed the deal, and not due to what you might call a long engagement. Just a long and chequered courtship, all the longer for not knowing that it would all turn our right in the end.

But the tipping point has arrived and now we’ve known each other for longer than we haven’t; and I’m surprised it took so long because it feels like we should have known each other for ever and also in previous lives.

———

And then you have children and the whole thing goes into overdrive and you wake up one morning and wonder how you got to be almost forty, and how you got so lucky as to have everything you ever wanted. And a mobile phone to boot.

Happy 20, B the B.