I’m so glad Jillian didn’t have any questions or that she didn’t take me up on my offer. I punched her the titular phrase at a red light some time after we exited Lake Shore Drive and turned onto Columbus.
We left the house after a quick tutorial about the potty, about the plate of food I placed in the fridge, about how the boy would probably be a little confused when he woke up because he hadn’t seen her in a long time. Dawn had started into a conversation; she wanted to catch up and reminisce. I told her there would be time for that after our date. I said it with the edge in my voice that she’s learned over the course of our relationship—the one that identifies my emotional state as irritated. We were late. I hate being late. I hate being late. And late is any time after I’ve decided we should leave. We were twenty-five minutes behind my stated departure time. We were within thirty minutes of the performance starting.
For at least six years, we put off purchasing tickets to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was our anniversary, and we had planned to attend the 2PM show. I wanted to watch every minute of it. I was afraid that Dawn’s love and interest in Jillian would make us miss what I wanted.
Bryce woke up. I took him to the toilet. His mother yapped, and Dawn and Jillian were going deeper into their words as I waited for my son to complete his bathroom work. I finished up with him and rushed through parting words. Bryce, sensing my edge or sensing that he was being left, eked out a yelp. He was really crying by the time we closed the door. We’ve gotten good at closing that door. It is, after all, the only door we have since the house has no walls or doors. When we leave the boy in capable hands, closing that one door feels righteous.
With twenty minutes to show time, we drove the route and were blessed with green lights and cooperative drivers from home to the loop. When turned and headed north on Columbus and when I got stuck at a light, I texted Jillian, hoping she’d respond with a quick indication that things had settled, hoping and not hoping. I told her to “Text me if you have any questions.” I entered the text, and the words added into the trail that had been our chatty history: our bell code, our address, and other stuff from back when me and Jillian worked together at church.
The words joined all the other ones.
Jillian didn’t text me, and in not texting me, she performed another service to me and to us. She was already watching our kid. She was already so happy about doing so, and about seeing us as well, two gifts of immeasurable worth. You can’t take smiles and hugs for granted, especially since people don’t have to like you. But she gave more than those when she went without replying to that last text.
Jillian gave us space to have time together. We had room to be with no need to respond to the boy and things related to him. It was weird. I checked my phone a few times during the performance—it was on vibrate—and I closed it swiftly when I saw that the rumble at my side was an email and not a message from our sitter. And I felt a small window of freedom the longer our minutes and hours together past. At dinner after the show, I felt the same thing, strengthening and lengthening freedom. I was relieved not to have a question to answer. It was relieving and liberating. And it reminded me that Jillian was good at watching the boy. It reminded me that even if she wasn’t, I didn’t have to know it, at least not while we were together celebrating our eleven years. It reminded me that there were things just as important as settling any upset my son could cause.
Of course, Bryce had calmed down as soon as Jillian gave him the milk I advised her to offer ten seconds after we said goodbye. And when we returned home, he hugged and greeted us while jumping to and from his sitter friend’s arms. And he hugged her over and over before she left. It was clear that they had a great time, that Bryce had fun and that Jillian did too. There was no question anywhere in the midst of all that.