I lay the pink rose bud picnic blanket down, smoothing out every crease and crinkle. It has to be perfect for her- she deserves nothing less, even though I’ve rarely been able to give it to her, but today, I’m going to try. After all, she always tries for me, even after 56 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 2 days since we were married.
I smile at her, offer my hand, which she graciously accepts- thank God. I’m not sure what I would have done if she had declined. When she sat down, with the sun behind her, the wind in her hair and peacefulness in her eyes, I open my mouth to speak.
But, I don’t say anything. The words are just caught in my throat. I probably look like a goldfish. I’m taken aback by how she looks. I suppose I hadn’t looked- really looked- at her, in a while. Her forehead is more wrinkled than I ever remember, her cheeks sagging, with grey, practically white hair hanging around her shoulders, but despite all this she looks… young. Juvenile, almost. Her hair, although dusky grey, crowned her head, like a halo, the angel that is my guardian. And her eyes. So old, but still so much life left in them. I can’t help but think that I’ve never seen such dark eyes with so much light in them,
“Come on, old man. Cat got your tongue?” She says bringing me out of my reverie. ”What did you bring me out here for? You know I could have easily cooked us a meal we could have eaten in the warmth of our home.”
“Yes, darling, of course I know that, you’re a great cook. I’ve eaten many of your meals, but did you know I can cook? Damn well if I say so myself. Don’t laugh!” I know what she is thinking. It’s one thing I love but she hates. She can never hide a thought from me.
“I wasn’t going t-”
“You were working up to it. I could tell. But, don’t worry. I will prove myself tonight. If you were wondering why I chucked you out the house earlier- yeah sorry ‘bout that but ya gotta do what you gotta do- that was so I could cook our dinner, which is in the basket to your right. Please pass it here and I will describe each delicacy we will be sampling tonight.” I gesture dramatically towards the said basket. She laughs, but does as I requested.
“Here you go, sir. I am certainly very interested. I expect it to be amazing, otherwise I would have been kicked out of my own home for nothing.”
I slowly unlatch each of the straps of the classic wicker basket. I hope none of the food has been messed up on the way here. Okay, good, can’t see anything wrong. I bring out the first item. “Here we have a lovely Greek salad, with feta and all. Tesco’s finest lettuce. Don’t worry, it was half price; I haven’t gone over the budget. And next we have steak. I can’t remember the name, but it had a lovely fancy one, which I’m sure will taste fine. It has a sauce on it as well, but I also can’t remember that name. It’ll come back to me later. There is dessert too, but that’s for later.” I smile in what I hope is a mysterious manner, and pick up the knife to start to carve the meat.
“Well, that’s lovely, dear, but why? I know you said you wanted to prove your cooking skills, but you could have done that at home. You have an ulterior motive.” Shame she can always read my thoughts, too.
“Okay, maybe there is, but I promise it isn’t evil, or anything. I know I haven’t been the greatest husband lately, and I know you are getting annoyed. Don’t deny it. You keep stealing the duvet at night, which you only do if you’re annoyed with me. So, I thought I would take you here, and attempt the cooking. Little romantic gesture, which won’t be complete without one of my famous soliloquies. Nothing’s ever complete without one of them. Ready?”
“Joe, that’s really not necessary. You don’t ha’” I put a finger to her lips.
“Just shut up and eat, I’ve planned this for a whole hour.” I push a plate towards her, and she picks up a knife and fork. “Fi, as you know, we have been married for 56 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. It has been that long since we made the vow that we will love each other until death do us apart, which I think is hilarious because death won’t get either of us out of this relationship. You’re stuck with me forever, which theoretically could be a lot worse. You have a man who loves you so much that you’re the first thing that he thinks of in the morning, the last thing on his mind before he falls asleep. Your face tattoos the inside of his eyelids every time he closes them, and he never stops dreaming of you at night.
You inspire him to be so much, to do so much. He’s sure that without you, he would be sitting on his backside eating crisps and watching poker all day. He thanks his lucky stars everyday for you.
You make him want to be a better person, who helps others, faces his fears, and lives life to the fullest.
This man is me.
I would never be able to live without you. You are the light in my life, the one that I can only hope to be in yours. Without your light, I would be plunged into darkness, blindly scrambling around, trying to get out, but there would be no escape. You are my sunshine, and, even though you may get obscured by clouds sometimes, you always come through and stay with me afterwards.
I love you and you love me, so there should be no end to our love. No matter what you do, or where you are, or where I am, I will always love you. And, that, my love, will never change.
We may be different, and we do argue, but what’s the sun without a little rain, right? And you are the sun, my sun, and I am the moon. You are the reason for my glow, without you, I’d be nothing. And even they can be seen together in the same sky sometimes.
There is no perfect lover, we are all flawed, but knowing those flaws and still loving with all your heart creates perfect love. I will never look further than you, my love. If my heart is a flower waiting to bloom, your love is the only sunshine it needs.”
She’s crying. She’s actually crying. Oh, God, what have I done now?
“Oh, God, what did I do? I honestly did not mean to make you cry. And why have you not eaten the steak? I’m just about to eat mine.”
“Because it’s inedible. I think you cooked it, not fried it. Don’t worry, I made a pie for us later. Why am I crying? Because you’re never this nice, which 1) is lovely and you’re lovely and I love you and 2) I’m slightly scared. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just me. That was… probably the nicest thing someone has ever said to me. I love you and I don’t want to lose you. I need you to kn-”
“Chimichurri.” I say.
“What?” She’s confused. I don’t know why.
“Chimichurri. It’s the name of the sauce. Told ya I’d remember it.” I smile proudly.