Marc and I were sitting on the benches at Café Jan Primus, near the University College Utrecht campus. It’s still a bit chilly at night to be sitting outside, but Torun, Marc’s dog, keeps farting.
“I’m telling you Wesley, it’s driving me nuts.”
Marc loves Torun regardless, but we sit outside anyway as a courtesy to the other patrons. Torun’s diet will have to change, but for now, the fresh air will do.
Dave and Merel came by to say hello. They had been drinking earlier — but oh, why not one more beer? Marc is here. And next to him is some kid who’s obviously not from around town.
We chat for a bit.
Marc went to the bathroom, so it was just Dave, Merel, and I for a moment.
Dave would tell me what it meant express gratitude, and what it means to find happiness and fulfillment in life. This was a familiar conversation, but the oxygen tank connected to his chair must have added extra weight to his words.
I told him I didn’t know what I was doing. He told me I had plenty of time, and that he didn’t know either, other than that he’s becoming more comfortable with himself. It wasn’t until he was thirty that he fully accepted his condition.
Even at the age of forty he still has self-doubt. That part never goes away. But for him, it’s not as suffocating as it once was.
I find that notion oddly comforting.
Some fun questions I like to ask couples in long-term relationships:
1) How did you two meet?
Perhaps there’s a story shared between the two. In Dave’s case, his guide dog became the first conversation topic between he and his future wife.
[On another note, being with a dog tends to make you more approachable as a man, at least to strangers — provided that the other person is not afraid of dogs.]
2) How has she influenced you?
I asked Dave how Merel influenced him. Merel was already attentive in the conversation, but I could already see her perk up.
Dave gives it some thought, then answers. Merel shared with Dave what it means to relax and enjoy life, instead of having to put on a serious face all the time because people expected him to.
I turn to Merel, and ask:
3) And how has he influenced you?
Merel gives it some thought, then answers. Dave shared with Merel what it means to be self-reliant and confident in your own abilities — instead of feeling helpless by circumstances you can’t control.
The things Dave and Merel mentioned were probably similar to what they say to each other in private.
But I’ve noticed that telling other people how much someone else means to you gives those special words even more weight.
The two were already in a good mood, but perhaps even better now.
Marc came back from the bathroom. I excused myself and went as well. I had been holding my pee this entire time, because keeping the conversation going was more important.