To which he responded, "no, you're a baby," prompting me to lean over to the waitress and inform her in a conspiratorial stage whisper, "he's not really lactose intolerant, he's just being self-indulgent."
The debate was pretty much settled when he asked, "do you want to see my rash?" Well no. Nobody wants to see that. (I don't know. Maybe the waitress did. She seemed rather taken with him, now that I think about it.)
All I know is, he ate plenty of dairy before this last stint overseas, and he seemed just fine, so I was reluctant to coddle what I immediately characterized as this new "affectation." (He said "just think of me as Vegan," as he tore into a giant plate of mutton, "but add the meat," he clarified. I responded, "vegans are smug." [I could be a vegan who just ate vegetables maybe, but all that fake cheese and fake bacon?])
The rest of dinner, I mostly just re-acquainted him with all the little nuances of Western Civilization that had evolved during his absence, like the iPad (we share a mutual and enthusiastic horror at a lack of keyboards and would probably both carry around an IBM Selectric if it were at all practical), and Twitter.
He knows how to post updates of course (he's not some godless savage), but it was futile for me to try to convey its utility for conversation. I explained, for example, how handy it was for locating groups of friends at fairs or fests or other large events (imagine how long it would take to text all those people individually! Like an Animal!)
It took a few minutes for me to realize he was getting that "blah blah blah Ginger" look in his eyes -- which is about the time I remembered that this is a guy whose cell phone was inadvertently packed away in a box that now apparently lives on an aircraft carrier in an ocean somewhere.... and that he hasn't missed it.
Personally, I agree with him about the phone part of the equation -- nobody wants to talk on it less than I do -- but I'd be lost without social media in my pocket, always at fingertip's reach.
I tried to tell him how great it was for even the simplest conveniences -- like letting your friends know when you're tied up and unavailable. I posted a picture of our dinner, for example -- assuring that wouldn't be disturbed and could eat our ribs in peace -- at which point my BlackBerry practically caught fire from the sudden and dazzling number of incoming texts and phone calls.
(I hadn't turned it to silent because my parents are traveling and my Mom likes to check in everytime they are about to cross the Canadian border -- not because she has any fear of our wily northern neighbors, but because "it's seventy cents a minute there!!" and she wants to make sure my brother and I don't accidentally call them while they're in expensive foreign territory.)
I finally went outside to take the third call, only because it was work-related, returning to the table with the awareness that my proselytizing had been undercut. He then did an excellent (if sarcastic) impression of what it's like when writers call me, feigning breathlessness, followed by "Can't.... talk... Rand....Paul...following...me.." before panting, "Deep...Throat."
I would like to say I heard all about his adventures, but his job had something to do with "security," so he never talks about it. Or, more accurately, I never listen. I definitely know he was not a Sniper, because that is the career I always thought I was cut out for, and I give him a hard time about the fact that his job would allow him to shoot people and I can't believe he never takes advantage of it. (As far as I know.) I've pointed out that if he ever goes back to practicing law, I'm the perfect repository for a vast array of secrets because I can't remember anything post-Ambien (and I wasn't much of a listener in the first place).
Thanks to Twitter though, I knew we were in for an 11 pm squall (also, because I felt a few drops while I was outside on the phone), and we walked home just before the clouds burst. So there. (Plus everybody got a good seventh-grade laugh over him asking the waitress which was bigger, "jumbo or large?")
Suddenly, I felt incapacitated as a hostess. It's not like I usually serve guests after-dinner butter (though I think it might be a great idea)... but I was sure that the assorted cakes, pies, and brownies lined up on my kitchen counter were
Please. There is no wrong time to share baked goods. If he isn't careful, we won't let him join in any of our Foody Falooty games-- all of which, by the way, involve heavy whipping cream, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Look, over the years I have bent over backward to accommodate cooking for heart disease, diabetes, multiple cases of diverticulitis and diverticulosis, Crohn's disease, and one vegetarian -- all of which, at some point, I have dismissed as "picky." (I grudgingly agree to take nut allergies seriously only because nothing ruins a good cookout like anaphalactic shock and an impromptu trip to the E.R.) My new attitude is "Let them eat gazpacho."
He said "hey, marriage is compromise..." positing sardonically, "what if I just get sick on the weekends? Would that satisfy you?" (Well, yeahhhhhhh. That'd be ok by me. Til he specified that on the days he's sick, he's not getting things off high shelves -- which is basically his side of this sham marriage we've cooked up... solely because his property management company recently inadvertently re-rented his house for another year -- the one he just theoretically returned home to, from the Sea -- and he's going to need Shelter.) Luckily, he is irresponsibly tall, and this place has a lot of high ceilings. Hey. Marriages have survived on less.
He was also the first guest in the new place to point out that if I wanted to disguise a loose floorboard, maybe a chair was not the best thing to put over it -- a fact he discovered when he went to sit on it, and I all but jerked it out from underneath him with the exclamation "you can't sit there!" I protested that the end-table he proposed as an alternative didn't go there, which he countered with, "Neither. Does. That. Chair." So now he wants the job of furniture-arranger, and I didn't have the heart to tell him my Gays would have a stroke if he infringed on their design territory.
I explained my idea of marriage is "each according to their means." I have no interest in somebody who can do the things I can already do myself -- they have to bring something to the table that I can't, or won't do. I love to cook, so we'll never go hungry (as long as he doesn't mind those aforementioned rashes punctuated by occasional bouts of intestinal distress...allegedly). But when I pointed out he'd have to kill spiders, his lip curled in revulsion. "Why can't you kill them?" he asked, presumably rhetorically. "Because I'm phobic," was my obvious answer. (Hello. Have we met?)
"Well, are you phobic of stepladders too?" No, I'm not phobic of stepladders -- they're just ineffective -- even at the top, I still can't reach most stuff.
"Maybe you're just phobic of dairy," I countered.
"Hey, you know what you need?" he offered helpfully, suddenly standing to survey the floor to ceiling built-ins in the TV room, "a Library Ladder...." the kind that slide back and forth across the shelves.
In fact, he continued, "why do you need a man at all?"
I agreed heartily. A library ladder. So simple. All. This. Time.
All. Those. Men. Those long, tall men.
When all I really needed was a Library Ladder.
He pointed out, "you know... they probably sensed it..."
Sensed what? (I was lost in a commemorative reverie at that point.)
"That you didn't need them."
Well duh. And following that through to its logical conclusion, I added, "and now that I know that's all I need... you do realize you're back to being homeless?"