"I'm so glad we waited," Josh replies.
We still have a couple of crab cakes left on the appetizer plate, and they are so good that Josh insisted we bring them with us from the bar to our table. I give Josh the rest of my share, saving room for the entree. We don't take long to decide what we want to eat, and after the waiter takes our orders I have another sip of my Shirley Temple.
When we'd ordered our drinks at the bar, Josh asked for a Roy Rogers--"And make that a double!" Sometimes I'm extra glad that I married him. Tonight is one of those times.
We'd spent the first part of the evening at Powell's, wandering in and out of the rooms with the ease of visiting old friends. The Blue Room is always my favorite. I always find something in the shelves of literary fiction.
We gaze out at the darkening sky, trying to pinpoint places we know. The energetic din of hungry customers dies out to a general hum as we hold hands across the table. "I'm so glad we're here right now," Josh says quietly. I smile and agree. We keep holding hands.
Our conversation doesn't touch much on our boy at home with his grandma, but I like knowing that I can conjure his smell when I want. I love knowing what's waiting for us upon our return, a sleeping boy who smells of lotion. But we still have time, just the two of us. We talk about ideas and observations and opinions, all those topics that don't come easily with a toddler at the table. We laugh a lot. And we smile. Love feels so happy.
The waiter comes with our food, and both mine and Josh's eyes grow big. We thank our server, and slowly start in on our meals. The honey-brined pork tenderloin is tender and juicy, so succulent that I have to close my eyes to take it all in. "Josh, this is amazing. Have you tried your short ribs yet? Try them." I stop talking to take another bite, or five.
The city lights start flickering on, reflecting off the river. The candlelight at the table grows more prominent and intimate. Yes, this seat was worth the wait. "I love you," I whisper. And I mean it so deeply.
"Do you think this place has to-go boxes? Because if you're not going to finish that, we need to take it home." My husband, always thinking ahead. Thankfully the waiter offers to box up my leftovers before I have to ask. Josh sends our debit card with the server, the sky completely darkened now. We see a rushing firetruck on the freeway, a cruising motorboat on the water, and a line at Voodoo Donuts snaking around the corner. ("Overrated," Josh says. "It's a destination thing.")
Just as we've decided to forgo dessert, our server brings a complimentary serving of chocolate-hazelnut-banana mousse--"Happy birthday," he says deferentially. Josh and I share the treat, marveling that we settled into feeling full instead of stuffed.
We walk out onto the street, and Josh pulls me close as we walk the few blocks back toward our car. "Thank you for tonight. It's been perfect," I say.
"Happy birthday--I love you so much."
We drive home in the car Josh had back when we were dating, and he holds my hand as he shifts from gear to gear. We see the Portland lights at ground level now. My heart is full, and I feel so happy to be alive.