I'm getting time off right this minute. Johannes, a.k.a. the Boyfriend, and Jonathan, my 12-year-old stepson (It's been decided that I can call him stepson because though Johannes and I are not married in the eyes of the law, we have privately vowed to irritate each other for as long as we both shall live.), are out seeing the kind of movie where cars crash and buildings explode. You couldn't convince me to watch a film like that if it were playing inside my contact lenses, but it makes Jonathan happy, which makes Johannes happy and gives me a chance to hang out with our daughter. At this point, you know all about Julia Claire—29 pounds of solid quirkiness—so it's time you meet the guys.
Jonathan is a citizen of the world. His well-traveled mother has taken him everywhere from Sri Lanka to Mexico. He is an authority on The Simpsons, Sudoku and soccer. He likes his pizza plain, his ice cream chocolate, his vegetables limited. He is a sworn enemy of anything that smacks of phoniness. He has never suffered fools gladly, met a tree he didn't want to climb, a pool he didn't want to dive right into. He listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne. He reads Lemony Snicket and watches the Pink Panther. He burns with pride and shyness as he shows me his report card.
He adores Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Monty Python, but nobody makes him laugh harder than his father. Ringo, was, is, and will probably always be his favorite Beatle because fellow drummers must stick together. After his grandfather's funeral, he asked me for a piece of gum, said a little prayer, knelt down and placed it on the grave. I loved him so much at that moment my knees nearly buckled. He is a wild child, frustrated and fragile, complaining and consoling, sweet-natured and fierce-tempered. He is a loyal friend, an old soul, a competitive player, a pure pleasure. And pretty soon he'll be taller than me.
Johannes knows every sad song Tom Waits ever recorded, every case Columbo ever solved, every homeless guy on the street. He knows how to repair a broken VCR, a torn coloring book, a bruised ego. He reads Rilke, he roasts chicken, he collects absurdities, he finds my mouth in the dark. He doesn't play devil's advocate, doesn't raise his voice, doesn't miss a trick. He loves smart design, worn-in boots, and me...not necessarily in that order.
He has the easy good manners that come from being raised with them. He opens doors, walks curbside, brings home lilacs in January. He'll change subways for a good cappuccino. He doesn't cultivate his idiosyncrasies—he doesn't have to. He follows the Mideast crisis, speaks three languages, raises beautiful children, trusts his instincts, worships David Sedaris, Alberto Giacometti, Terrence Malick. He's still recovering from Down by Law. He plays his Gibson guitar like an angel, rides the roller coaster of my moods, stays when it'd be easier to go. If we ever split up, it will be due to irreconcilable similarities. He has my favorite face.
So it's true—I've done more than my fair share for men. The laser tag alone should have qualified me for some sort of rehab, but at the end of the day, I know a couple of guys who do quite a lot for me.
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