When I had to renew my driver’s license today, I thought about the first time I went to get a Tennessee driver’s license, just after I had married and moved four hours and across state lines to finally live in the same city and house as my new husband.
Back then, I felt shaky in this new place. I knew almost no one, I had no clue how to get around (I’m still working on that all these years later because this city is not on a grid!), and I had left a wonderful group of friends and my tight-knit dance community and the familiarity and comfort of a place I had lived for a decade in order to move here. Yet that town in which I had lived was also a place where I had faced some pretty big losses—divorce, the severing of two close friendships, breakups with boyfriends that hadn’t always gone so well.
My new husband, Preston, took a day off work and drove me to all the offices I needed to go to get my car registered in Tennessee, to get my driver’s license, and to get all our insurance straightened out. I remember us sitting with the insurance officer and his asking if we were married—we said yes—and then his not understanding why I had a different last name. It was as if he had never heard of the concept of a woman keeping her name (and maybe he hadn’t), and I worried in that moment about all of it—the choices I had made to move after years of saying I would never date anyone long-distance ever again. I had made an exception for Preston. But where in the world had I ended up?
We also had one of the biggest arguments we have ever had just after I moved—not big in volume, big in depth. The space between us widened for days. And scared me. I was someone who had made some pretty big and stupid decisions over the years. I worried: Could this be another one of them?
It’s been over a decade now that we have been together. Recently, he and I went out for breakfast. It’s not my favorite meal out—I’m a lunch fan—but it’s his favorite, and frankly, any meal with him is good because we get to talk, and all these years later, I still love our conversations. As we were finishing up, the waitress dropped off the bill and told us we could pay at the counter, and I was trying to tell him a little story I had heard, and I could tell he wasn’t paying attention—his eyes were focused elsewhere, he wasn’t responding. He was clearly distracted. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll explain when we’re outside.” No biggie, I thought, and we both got up.
As we made our way to the front of the restaurant, I saw some of our neighbors (yes, I know a few people now! Not many, but a few!) and I stopped to say hi while Preston went to pay. I chatted for a couple of minutes and then caught up with Preston just as he was finishing with the cashier.
“Sorry about that,” he said as we left and walked to our car. Then he told me that he had been distracted because there was a couple sitting near where we had been sitting, and they had looked distressed. “So I paid for their breakfast,” he said. “I told the waitress to just tell them someone wanted to treat them.”
I thought of this story today as I drove to get my license. I thought about the leap of faith I took to move and marry him. I thought of the leap of faith he had to take, too—I mean, I could have turned out to be a psycho once I moved in (surprise!). I’m glad I know how to get to the driver’s license office by myself now, but mostly I am glad that I married the man I did—the kind that would happily take me there if I needed him to, the kind that would buy breakfast for two strangers, the kind that does things like that on any given day.