There's a picture of Chris that keeps coming back to me. I took it several months after we met. He sat on the small, grassy hill below Beach Avenue, facing English Bay. His knees were up, and he wore a pair of white Spandex shorts (they were in fashion then) and a white T-shirt. Chris was no more willing to have his picture taken than I was, but I insisted on it. By then, I knew he wasn't like the other fellows I'd dated--here today, gone tomorrow--but I didn't know how long we'd have together. At the very least, I planned to end up with a picture of him, a memory perhaps of the longest relationship I'd ever had--two or three months. Little did I know.
What strikes me about that picture now is how young Chris looked. He was twenty-three years old, chronologically a young man, but a little boy, really. He had a shock of wiry, light brown hair in front, that he called horse hair and that has since thinned to a few brave strands. And his face was boyishly innocent, reflecting his inherent sweetness and lack of experience with the world. But, remarkably, he had a sense of himself that I didn't have when I was his age. He was cool and laid back, even though he may have been nervous about what was happening between the two of us (I know I was), and he was confident without being the least arrogant. Oh, and he was kind and gentle and considerate and respectful and sweet (I mentioned that before, but it bears repeating; it's one of the qualities that I was most attracted to). I remember telling him then that his parents raised a fine human being. I believe that more today than ever.
Over the years, we've hit milestones in our relationship. You've heard of the seven year itch? We passed by that unscathed ten years ago, and I didn't even have to scratch.
The first milestone that was most important to me was ten years, a complete decade. I always thought that if our relationship reached that point, we'd really have something. I felt a sense of pride when I told other people that Chris and I had been together ten years. We didn't have just a fly-by-night gay relationship after all--we had a real gay relationship, one that other people, gay or straight, had to recognize and respect. Once we passed ten years, in June 2002, who knew how many more we'd be blessed with. I set my next goal for fifteen.
There's no point being together in a relationship for one year, let alone seventeen, unless you love each other and the life you share is good. There's no question that Chris and I love each other, and, frankly, our life together couldn't be better. I still look forward to him coming home from work every day. I still look forward to preparing dinner for him, to sitting down with him at the table, enjoying our meal, and catching up on what happened during the day. I still look forward to talking with him, to sharing ideas and concerns and hopes with him, to planning what we'll do together that evening or that weekend. I still look forward to the end of the day with him, when we shower together, when things quiet down, when we share a few last words, and when we say good night to each other.
I love when he's in bed, his naked body completely covered, only his head visible on the pillow above the bedding. I love looking at his cute face, that little boy face I fell in love with all those years ago, still unmistakable behind the manly goatee he sports these days. I love wrapping both of my arms around his entire head, and embracing it, and kissing his freshly shaven face. I love looking at him closely, at the grey hairs on his chin, at that crooked incisor that adds charm to his smile, at his water blue eyes. I love knowing in my heart that this human being, this wonderful human spirit, is a part of my life, that he's my partner, and that we share a life together. I'm one fortunate guy.
Among my prayers at night is that God keeps Chris and me safe, that he continues to strengthen our relationship, and that we're fortunate enough to be together for many decades to come. Who knew we'd be together for seventeen years? Who knows how much longer we'll be together? But one thing is for certain: I treasure every minute with this wonderful young man. I can't believe how lucky and blessed I am.