Earlier this week, as he washed dishes and I dried, I watched Chris's profile and, for a moment, I was flashed back to June 13, 1992, when, after a few hours of flirting with each other, I finally walked up to him and asked, "Would you like to dance?" It was a courageous, and uncharacteristic, overture that would change my life forever, but I had no way of knowing that at the time. All I thought was, he's interested in me now, but it won't last. He'll reject me like the others, and I'll end up being alone for the rest of my life after all.
There was a lot of pressure on that initial introduction, although I tried to tell myself there wasn't. Months had passed since my last attempt at connection with a potential partner--which was typical at that time in my life--and, having just gone through jaw surgery and a month off work to recuperate, I'd had time to think about myself and to accept there was a chance I'd always be single. And, for the first time ever, I was fine with that. I was in a good place. I'd started a lot of the work on myself that I needed to do.
So when Chris unexpectedly got my attention at the Odyssey, standing against a nearby column most of the night, drinking several beer, sneaking surreptitious glances at me from time to time, and we ended up dancing for much of the rest of the night, I got caught up in the drama that always played in my head under the same circumstances. Did he think I was attractive? Did he like the way I danced? Did he like the clothes I was wearing? Would this time turn into "the" time? I had no reason to think it would.
We were at the club until the lights went up in the early morning, and everyone had the chance to see what the person next to him really looked like. I liked what I saw, sort of. Chris wasn't the type I'd ever imagined myself interested in. He was young and geeky, his body, beneath his loose clothing, was skinny and shapeless. He was just a kid, really, not nearly the handsome man he would become. Still, we left the Odyssey together, walked up several blocks of Davie, into the gay village, and decided to have something to eat at Hamburger Mary's, a greasy spoon diner. Neither one of us wanted to let the other get away.
The magic of what was happening between us didn't catch up to me until we sat across from each other, eating our burgers and fries, talking about ourselves and our lives. Conversation with Chris was unusually comfortable and natural, and I remember we laughed a lot. He had a way of pursing his lips, that seemed old for someone who was twenty-three, whenever I said something he was skeptical about. I loved the blue eyes behind his glasses, his cool, relaxed manner--and that he seemed interested in me.
In a matter of hours, that first night together was over. We left Hamburger Mary's some time after three in the morning, walked down Davie to the bottom of the hill, when he gave me a business card we somehow wrote his home number on. And, because I didn't want him to get the wrong idea by inviting him to stay the night, he went right on Nicola and I went left. I arrived home safely a few minutes later, and I found out the following day he'd been mugged. A group of young thugs had kicked him to the ground, stealing his wallet and cracking his lip.
Thus began our life together.
When I think back on those five or so hours, I'm struck by how much I wasn't in the moment at all. Sure, I was present as we danced, talked, and ate, enough to know what was going on and to respond appropriately to what he said. But I wasn't really present. I was too preoccupied with what he thought of me, whether I was as interested in him as I thought I was, and how long this one would last. I gave it a few days, a week at most.
I wish I'd known then we would stay together. I wish I'd known then I'd love this man, more than I'd ever loved anyone. I wish I'd known then we would be an old married couple nineteen years later and counting. Because, then, I would have enjoyed every moment exactly for what it was. I would have given up my nerves and fear, and been confident knowing everything would turn out all right after all. And I would have made a point of remembering all the little details that would make those few hours as vivid all these years later as it was then.
Of course, Chris and I live a wonderful life. We get along better than best friends. We've bought three homes together, travelled to exotic locations, and made a full and satisfying life for ourselves. Best of all, we have each other. We're not still lost in the world, searching for the right people to quell the need for companionship. And, over time, we taught each other what love is--not the stuff of infatuated teenagers, but the deeply-rooted, rock-solid, forever-after stuff. I wouldn't exchange any of the incredible gifts I have now for anything.
Except, perhaps, for another chance at those hours. Another chance to be twenty years younger, at the very beginning of something incredibly innocent and special. Another chance to really take in all that Chris was then--his self-assuredness, his openness, his beauty, inside and out. Another chance to start again everything that has made us who we are today.