"That was beautiful," I said. I kissed him on the cheek.
"Yeah I told you so," he said, then turned to speak to the boat driver.
All his friends, save few, were couples. There were a few of each: the married ones, the engaged ones, and the simply in-love ones. One of the married ones invited us out to her parent's lake house for the 4th of July. Apparently among them this was a tradition. A few days of drinking, swimming, sunning, and games. He hadn't invited me the year before, when we had only been together for about 4 months or so. But this year our relationship was a growing toddler so he called me up and told me we were going and to pack a swimsuit.
It was the hottest summer in a long time and I had been stuck at the house for the bulk of it, so I was ecstatic to go. I liked the friends, the married ones and the engaged ones and the in-love ones too. And I wanted them to like me.
He had a habit, since we first got together, of inviting me along with them and then abandoning me post haste. The first month or so that we were dating we went to a wedding, the married-couple-lake-house wedding in fact. I knew absolutely no one there, and barely knew him. Because he was a groomsmen we stayed for the weekend, and because he was a groomsmen he spent 80% of the time with the wedding party drinking whiskey, running through the rehearsal, and generally ignoring me. This left me to mingle with complete strangers for extended hours. When it was over I felt mixed. I felt he had used me as an accessory, "a date." But I was proud that I held my own- happy that I seemed to be getting back to that social person I once was. But I was angry that he didn't appreciate my effort- that I played so well the part of "a date." I considered calling it off and chalking it up to an awkward time. But on the way home we stopped for chicken sandwiches and he apologized and I made a mental note to give him another chance.
It was impossible not to think of that wedding while we were making the drive up into the Georgia mountains on July 3rd. But that was over a year before and I had since spent time with the friends and really enjoyed their company. They were a silly group- always laughing and cutting up. They were smart and interesting and successful. And they were all in love. And they all had a plan, it seemed.
The lake house was fantastic, hidden in the trees with a giant staircase descending down down down to the sprawling boat house, stocked with vodka and bud light and checkers. We spent the days playing beer pong until the heat and the liquor made our heads spin, choosing then to jump from the high ledge into the cool green water of the lake. At this point I was used to his distance and knew how to handle it. When I could tell he wasn't interested in me being around I would go help the girls bring down the sandwiches for lunch or float in the gossip circle in the water.
When night fell on the 4th the mosquitoes and guests were buzzing. The wealthy residents of the lake community were really proud of their annual fireworks shows and poured huge money into the display. They could be seen up close and personal by taking a boat out to a central part of the lake, or people could go up to the top of the mountain in the clubhouse and watch the display from afar. The boat had something like 8 places. I asked him where we were going to watch the fireworks.
"I think you should go in the boat," he said. "You haven't ever seen them before and that is the best place to be."
"Are you going in the boat?" I asked.
"No, I don't think so," he replied. "I have seen them before and there are others here who haven't so I would feel bad taking a place. I'll go up to the club with the others."
"I'll go to the club too, then," I told him. "I want to be with you."
"You should go in the boat," he repeated, clearly annoyed. "They are really good and I think you will want to see them there." I could tell he thought I was being needy, or annoying, or unreasonable. Of course he never actually said these things- never told me when something bothered him or made him upset. Instead he would just blink his eyes a little too slowly, breathe out in a heavy and labored way, and stay quiet much too long, as if he was measuring his responses much too intensely.
I fed on his energy and tried to explain, my own frustration coming across in my tone. "I just want to watch them with you. I don't care where we watch them. Why does that make you mad?" I asked sharply.
"I'm not angry," he said, of course. "Look, I'll go see who is all going in the boat." He disappeared, taking all his furrow and tepidness with him. And that was how all of our "fights" were- him, clearly annoyed, blocking me out. Me, sensing the stress, overcompensating by tense coaxing. The argument, in the end, of course not being about fireworks or boats or clubhouses.
A bit later I was called for to go to the boat. Somehow he got both our names on the short list of seats. This annoyed me even more. I didn't want the others to think I was being difficult or spoiled and I was afraid he had told them that I wouldn't get on the boat without him. And that wasn't the case at all. I just wanted to be with him, no matter where. I wanted to watch the fireworks together and see the sparkles on his face and kiss and touch and be near. I climbed down into the little speed boat with several married ones and a few engaged ones.
The dark air flying by the boat as we made our way to the area was cold and refreshing. We were surrounded by other boats dressed in colored lights and blasting stereos. The water slushed under all the motors. But when the display started the crowd went quiet and the water went still. Every few seconds a new ball of fire would shoot up into the sky and explode all over, raining below. It was beautiful.
I kissed his cheek. "I told you so," he said.
And as we made our way back to the house I closed my eyes and let the humid air hit my face and turn my nose red.
All I wanted to do was watch the fireworks with you.
All I wanted to do was experience life with you.