Monday, April 30, 2012

"She's a Keeper"

I make no apologies nor offer any excuses for what I just did, right before dinner. I got home from work around 8:30pm, sat down to eat the dinner that Joe had cooked us, and though I was ravenous, I took one look at the juicy, steaming plate of slow-cooked pork ribs he put down in front of me, one look down at the dress I'd worn to work today, and then, friends, I excused myself from the table so I could go change into my rib eatin' shirt. "Hold on," I said, "I gotta go change into my rib eatin' shirt."

I didn't know I had one until the very moment when that sentence popped out of my mouth, but I knew as soon as I reached for an old black T shirt, speckled, soft and worn out, that this 'un is gonna be my rib eatin' shirt. There was but one brief pause as I pulled it over my head, only a moment of self-reckoning in which I observed myself and understanding that I done gone and got me'self a durned rib eatin' shirt!

What's even funnier is that Joe followed me into the bedroom and changed HIS shirt, too. We laughed. Hey, you know? I didn't get to pass 40 without learning to just cut to the chase, man up, own it. Own the truth! One such truth being that whatever you're wearing WILL get barbecue sauce on it if yer gonna eat a plate o' ribs.

Damn they were good. Big meaty pork ribs. Joe dry-rubbed and smoked them for two hours in the smoker he got for Christmas, then slow and low in the oven with a wet rub of sweet barbecue sauce, 250 degrees for two and a half hours. I could smell them all the way down the stairs. Delightful.

We sat down to eat and just as I was picking up a rib with my hands, I noticed that Joe is using a fork. "That reminds me of one of our first dates. Inasmuch as we 'dated.'" More about that later. Remind me.

He didn't remember at first what recollection was triggered by the fork.

I reminded him.

Joe used to wear two or three chunky silver rings on his fingers. (What, he's from New Jersey, he didn't know. It's okay, I fixed it.) Whenever he was about to get his hands messy, something he used to avoid whenever possible by the way, he'd remove his rings. "Pizzeria Uno," I said. This was mid-2002 or so, at the Uno on the corner of Harvard and Commonwealth. It's closed down now, but that was a handy Uno's that served terrific margaritas. "You ordered ribs. Our waiter saw you reaching for your fork and gently kidded, 'brotha, you really gonna eat those with a fork instead of your hands? You ever had ribs before?'" Joe laughed, the waiter laughed, but duly humbled by our rib-appreciating waiter, Joe accepted the rib-eating fact of messy hands -- but first, he removed his rings and put them on the table.

"I remember. And you took one of my rings, and promptly dropped it into the sour cream."

Yep, I did. The tablecloth pattern was a busy one, some sort of loopy design, and when I looked at the rings where he'd put them down I thought they were too camouflaged by the busy pattern. "You'll forget them," I said. I picked up one, and put it on my thumb. For a moment I held it aloft, thumb-up like the Fonz. Then I turned my hand sideways, like a hitchhiker.


For just about five seconds, we both looked at the ring, where it'd plopped like a lead bullet into the sour cream that sat in the center of our nacho appetizer. Then we looked at each other, and I sheepishly pulled the ring out of the goop and wiped it off.

"Yep, I remember that. I said 'She's a keeper."

Ten years, folks. Ten years.