Perhaps he thought the silence on the way home was my processing the play we’d just seen. That I was stunned by the horrifying treatment of homosexuals during the Holocaust. That was part of it, but there was more. Once we arrived home, I could no longer remain silent.
“I can’t believe you kept that.”
“That little tea light they gave us after the show. That was for us to place on the water to remember the holocaust victims.”
“You placed yours there.”
“We were both supposed to place them there. I can’t believe you’re so cheap you had to keep one single tea light candle.”
Offended, he reminded me: “I paid for the tickets.”
“I’ll repay you if that’s the issue.”
“I don’t want the money. But how dare you call me cheap.”
“There was no need to keep that light,” I said. “If you wanted one so badly, you could get a whole bag for a couple of bucks.”
Eric left the room. How dare he walk out in the middle of an argument.
I shouted after him: “You’re going to walk away while I’m talking to you?”
He didn’t respond. It was unlike him to give up so quickly. I was about to go after him when he returned with an old shoe box. So old, I couldn’t recall the shoes that came in it.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s been on our chest of drawers ever since you moved in. You never peaked inside?”
He handed the box to me, which added to my confusion.
“Open it,” he suggested.
I removed the lid to find it filled with ticket stubs, play programs, receipts and more.
“Is this for taxes?” I asked.
Eric laughed. “No, silly.”
“Then what is all this junk?”
“That’s what you call it? Junk?”
“I’m not sure what this has to do with keeping a tea light,” I had to confess.
“Don’t you recognize where all that stuff is from?”
“We went to these shows, and movies…” I examined a familiar piece of cardboard. “Is that a coasters from that bar in Key West?”
“Where we first said the l-word to each other,” he reminded me.
“Why is all this stuff in this box?”
“It’s the memory box of all the times we spent together, silly.”
As I dug deeper into the box, memories came flooding back. He’d saved something from every event we attended, big or small: a matchbook from the first family wedding I brought him to as my date, the thank you card I wrote him for coming to rescue me when my car broke down, along with ticket stubs to every movie, play and concert we’d ever seen together.
“How far back does this go?” I asked.
“To our second date.”
“You saved the program Alan’s horrible play?”
“That and from lots of other bad plays and art shows you dragged me to. I’ll need another box soon.”
“You never told me you held on to all this stuff.”
“I wanted to remember all the good times we had together. I’ve done it with all the special men in my life, but you’re the first time I ever filled a box.”
“I took that tea light to remember that we saw this play, and how affected we were by the horrors it portrayed. If I placed it on the water, we’d have forgotten about it in a day or two. I thought it was more important to have something to remind us how far we’ve come. And how fortunate we are.”
Coyly, I admitted: “I’m the biggest idiot in the world.”
“No,” he corrected more politely. “You have a big heart and an empathetic soul. That’s why I love you.”
He tapped my head with the Key West coaster.
“And after seeing this,” I held up the box, “I think I love you even more.”
We sat on the floor and got lost in the box and our memories. Laughing and reminiscing over the seemingly meaningless trinkets of the lives we’ve lived without shame or compromise.
Until we fell asleep in each other’s arms.