We order our shared dinner, and he turns to pull something out of the inner pocket of his blazer, producing a small pink box. “For you.”
I am the worst about accepting compliments and gifts, so as expected, Appalland makes an appearance and I stammer out a few things that vaguely translate into Oh my God, you’re so ridiculous, how dare you.
Inside the box is a delicate gold claddagh ring, and a storm erupts inside me.
“I realize it seems stereotypical to wear these,” Calvin says through my stunned silence, “but we do. Please don’t think I’m being trite. This doesn’t just represent love—with the heart—but I suppose we think of the hands as friendship, and the crown as loyalty.” He makes a self-deprecating little grimace as he slides it on my right ring finger, exposed from the cast, with the point of the heart toward the wrist. “Like this, it means you’re in a relationship.” With a smile aimed at my hand, he fusses with it a little, twisting it straight on my finger. “Normally, because we’re married, you’d wear it like that on your other hand, but you’ve got the wedding ring there.”
I’m so afraid of saying something inappropriate or flippant that I don’t say anything, I just touch it with the fingers of my left hand and smile up at him.
“Do you like it?” he asks quietly.
This is where I could so easily reveal that I’m completely infatuated with him, and that his giving me a ring has essentially Made My Life Complete, but I just nod, whispering, “It’s so pretty, Calvin.”
He leans back, but the vulnerability doesn’t entirely leave his expression. “Do you enjoy watching me in rehearsal?”
An indelicate snort escapes. “Is that a serious question?”
He gives that self-deprecating grimace again. “Well, yeah. Your opinion is the one I value most. Your advice is . . . everything.”
This leaves me momentarily stunned. “I love watching you rehearse. You’re spectacular—you have to know that.”
The waiter brings our wine, and we each take a sip to approve the bottle, thanking him. Once he’s gone, Calvin looks at me over the rim of his glass.
“I think Ramón and I sound great together, yeah.” He bites his lip thoughtfully. “But—I mean—the entire time I’ve been here, I’ve wanted this—exactly this. Did I ever tell you, once Possessed debuted, I would play the music alone and imagine being in the production?”
Something squeezes my heart in its fist. “Really?”
He nods, quickly swallowing another sip. “After I graduated, I thought something like this would come. I thought that break was only a few months off. Or I would run into someone at a party, and give them my information and hope it would change everything. A year turned into two, and two turned into four, and I wanted to be on Broadway so much I just stayed. I really screwed myself, I know I did.”
“I can completely see how that would happen, though.” It’s like me with the book, I think. I expect the idea to sprout tomorrow, next week, in a month. And here I am, two years out of graduate school with nothing written.
“So, I suppose what I mean is that this is so obviously worth it to me. Whether we are only friends or . . . you know. I want this marriage to be worth it to you,” he says gently, “and I’m not quite sure how to make that happen.”
Whether we are only friends or . . . you know.
Whether we are only friends or . . . you know?
My brain is on a loop, barricaded from working past what he’s just said in order to help assuage the guilt I can tell he’s feeling. The reply We could start having regular sex is so close to the surface. So close.
I take a few deep gulps of wine and wipe my hand indelicately across my mouth. “Please don’t worry about that.”
“I could help you think about your book?”
I get that sinking feeling in my stomach that I always get when I imagine opening my laptop and working.
We could have sex tonight.
I take another deep drink of wine.
“I’ll try to think of something,” he says quietly.
Calvin and Ramón’s first performance is on a Friday.
When I find him tying his tie in front of my bedroom mirror, he looks calm and rested—but I know it’s a sham, because I heard him pacing most of last night.
He nods with his bottom lip trapped savagely between his teeth. Smoothing the tie down his chest, he says, “What do you think? Do you think I’m ready?”
He’s said my favorite word of his—tink—twice in one sentence, as if I need to be further charmed.
“I tink you’re going to be amazing.”
He meets my eyes in the mirror. “You tink you can give me shit for my accent?”
“I tink you sort of like it.”
He turns, and for ten seconds, we stand there like this, staring at each other. We’re maybe a foot apart; I can see his hands shaking. He’s been waiting his entire life for this moment.
“Tell me something I need to remember tonight.”
He seems to need something to focus on, some advice to loop through so that he doesn’t spiral downward in nerves for the next two hours. I reach out, fidgeting with his tie. “Don’t rush through the bridge in ‘Only Once in My Life.’ Make sure to breathe in the opening solo of ‘I Didn’t Expect You,’ because you hold your breath sometimes, and I think the notes come out looser when you remember to breathe.” I think for a few seconds in his absorbed silence. “Trust your hands during ‘Lost to Me.’ Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and feel the notes. When you do that, it comes out like water easily moving over a stone.”