I never realize just how long I’ve been with my boyfriend until we’re in social situations, mostly with new people, who ask, “How long have you two been together?” Or when someone says something like, “Well, we’ve been together about a year and a half--nowhere near as long as you guys…”
The truth is, I don’t really think about it. Al is one of the biggest parts of my life, yet I never really sit down and think that nine years is a long time. To me, it isn’t. It’s not long at all.
But here we are, thinking about it.
Nine years ago, this is what my life was like:
I had just gotten over the death of my step-dad and a round of self-destructive and not-healthy behavior.
I didn’t want to be in any type of relationship.
All I wanted was to finish high school, go to college, and move far, far away.
Then my junior years rolls around and there he is.
--But let’s back up a little--
Rewind to three years or so before I met Al. My sister was dating a kid who invited us to a Halloween party at his youth group. I think I was like, 15? 16? Anyway, I was the only one who dressed like a “scary” thing so everyone was staring at me in the middle of the church basement and I immediately wanted to go home. But one of the stares seemed different than the others.
There was a guy dressed in black and tripp pants sitting in one of the folding metal chairs, not talking to anyone. He had also dressed kind of scary. I didn’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to talk to him. I didn’t, of course.
Then I started high school. I had to take the bus because I didn’t have a car or a license or a friend with any of these things either. I looked out the window because something just told me to.
He was standing outside of school, waiting for someone, the sun shining on his dark hair. He was wearing a sweatshirt and light colored jeans. His hair blew into his face every so often, which he was quick to flip away.
It was the same guy from the church basement.
I don’t know this at the time, of course, and the window was too thick, too much of a barrier between us, so again, I said nothing.
The way we actually did finally meet is kind of hazy. Like I couldn’t believe it was happening and so I just didn’t pay too close attention to it. But he had a friend that we were both friends with, and we would kind of play a game of telephone between her, both of us too shy and socially awkward to do anything else.
We got to Iming and Myspace messaging next.
It was weird, we lived so close to each other, yet we decided that putting computers between us was better to get to know each other.
One day, in the hall, he actually said hi to me.
I remember that day because I was having an extremely bad morning, and then he comes out of nowhere and talks to me in person. I didn’t know what to do, so I think I just smiled and maybe mumbled a “hey”. I don’t remember that either.
But I do remember that day in the gym locker room I put my pants on backwards because I was thinking about him.
I do remember that after that day, he waited for me outside of my first class and we walked through the hall together before we had to part ways at our lockers. Always silent, always awkward, yet somehow, okay with it.
On one of these days, he hugged me. I forget why, but it happened. And as he let go, he asked me something that I didn’t hear. I asked him to repeat it, and he said, rather nervously, “Will you go out with me?”
and I did.
We walked through the hall like always, quiet as ever. He was staring at me a lot so i asked, “What are you looking at?” to which he replied, “Nothing”, even more nervously. (This is a story he swears he will tell at our wedding one day. I’ll never live it down).
Later (like, two years later), he would tell me that he was staring because he couldn’t believe I had said yes. And I would tell him I asked the question because I was afraid he was regretting his decision and didn’t want to talk to me so I wanted to break the silence.
How much did this whole process take? Three months.
It seemed like a week to me.
Then what happened after that?
Life happened, for sure.
My first cat died, he helped me move (twice, I think), he waited patiently on the phone while things at my house were crazy and I was waiting for a quiet moment, but didn’t want to hang up, afraid to lose my life line. I published my first book, I started college, I published MORE books, my nana died, I moved in with my dad, I moved out of his house a week later, my best friend had two kids, my other cat died, the hurricane happened, my dad died, I went on medication, I graduated college.
Life happened. Lots of life.
And it’s only when I look back at a specific memory that I realize that for a lot of the hard times, Al was there, either in the background, waiting to be called in, or right there with me, holding me up when I couldn’t stand anymore.
That’s what’s important to me. Not how long we’ve been together, but how MUCH.
I don’t mean this in time spent per day together; I mean, when you look at the person you call your significant other, do you see someone that you want to see you fall when you’re walking into a convenience store and although they laugh, they don’t think any less of you? Are you prepared for them to see you at your absolute worst? I’m not talking about waking up with no makeup on. I’m talking about being so upset that you can’t even look at yourself because you’re afraid you won’t look the same in the mirror. When you’re so broken that you don’t think you can ever be put back together? When you cry and have snot shooting out of your nose and running down your face and all they do is hold you and let you rub it into their shirt. When you think that one Disney movie is really dumb but the one scene makes you sad regardless because it reminds you of when you were a kid and even though they’ve heard you tell this story a million times, they let you tell them again without interrupting.
That’s what I mean.
Love is not some pretty thing covered in white lace.
Not for me, at least. And I wouldn’t want it that way.
Love is being secure, knowing that there is at least one person in this fucked up world that gets you (at least most of the time); that you aren’t alone, even when you’re drifting out at sea.
The past year has been hard. I’ve lived through it, and I would have probably lived through it if I was alone. But I wasn’t. Al was there, in the background, as well as holding me up. He didn’t judge me when I told him I was depressed. Instead, he took me on a walk in the woods and we talked. When my dad died alone and I blamed myself, he let me crumple in on myself on his living room floor until I had cried every bad thing out of me. When I was afraid of relapsing with self-harm, he talked to me, he held me together.
I’m not saying a “boyfriend” will solve my problems. Love does. Love is so simple, and the answer to nearly everything.
These words always seem to fall short of what I want to say, but I am so grateful we met. I’m so thankful we’ve been together for this long, that my monsters haven’t scared him away, that his “normalness” hasn’t scared me either. There is no one I can better imagine spending the rest of my life with than this person. I don’t care about marriage. I just care about time.
Because nine years isn’t enough.