We first met on a blind date. We barely talked, instead leaning on the couple introducing us, letting them float the conversation.
We glanced at each other through the corners of our eyes, you with your suspiciously preppy shirt, me with my unflatteringly baggy black jeans.
We were not each other’s type. I was drawn to unkempt bad boys, the ones who drank too much and never called when they were supposed to. You were clear-eyed, wore shirts with collars and didn’t drink. You preferred clean-cut blondes; I was dark-haired and rumpled.
Unaccustomed to dating without the cottony buffer of alcohol, I sat stiffly, talked little.
I held my breath.
“He’s cute,” I told my friend afterwards. “I’m not sure he’s my type, though.”
But we met again anyways.
This time, we sat across from each other, daring to look straight into each other’s eyes. You were warm and open. We talked about our dead, my brother, your dad. You were only 24, but you had the courage to talk about things that were heavy and real. I saw the light in your eyes, and you saw the glimmer in mine. The first impression I had of you began to swirl and settle into something else, rearranging. It was like getting past the foreign first pages of a book and moving into the place where you finally fall into the words, where you let yourself drift down into another world, taken.
On our third date, you drove me up the Maine coast. I flinched at your yellow button-down shirt, but we laughed and drove, the glittering ocean following us, and I was smitten.
We were so young.
The future was misty, muddled.
We moved quickly.
I brought you to my hometown. I wanted to show you the backdrop of my Alaskan childhood. I brought you up mountains and into the bed where I slept in a younger body. You brought me to your island too, where later we stood, encircled by family and friends who passed our rings from hand to hand, squeezing blessings into them, before they finally rested on our fingers.
Now, in what feels like a handful of breaths, we are in the heart of our lives. We made two beautiful babies who’ve become children. We’ve changed jobs and houses and friends. We’ve gathered small aches, we’ve conquered goals, we’ve rooted.
These are the years we might remember as the best of our lives. But they are bursting years, full of unsexy responsibilities and stressors. Instead of whispering our dreams, we ask each other, “Did you pay the bills?” Instead of looking at you, surprised to see your spirit, the one I feel I’ve known forever, wrapped in flesh, I say, “Did you get bread?”
Sometimes I think of the younger versions of us, smooth-faced and free. Sometimes I miss them. They were less tired and unburdened. But also less wise, less seasoned.
We have hurt each other with our words and actions. We’ve taken each other for granted.
And yet we are still here, even in this swollen season.
Nobody told me that for love to be long, you have to choose it over and over again. Just as the cells of our bodies do the hard, mundane but miraculous work of replacing themselves again and again, so you have to choose love. You have to work at regenerating it, at recreating it. You have to sometimes hold your words in until the steam dissipates, and the words wither.
Other times, you have to voice your wants and needs, even when they seem plain as day.
This is our love. It’s a shapeshifting love. It’s one that bends and twists, that thins and thickens.
This is our love and I choose it, again and again.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Greg Rakozy/Unsplash