Next month, Ray and I will be boarding a plane, bound for Honolulu, HI. As an act both of spontaneity and celebration, he purchased a cheap ticket for himself, and combined with a buddy pass he got as part of an airline credit card offer, he booked us a way to get away from Portland, and to mark being together for one year.
I can’t help but find myself sitting here in awe. Has it really been almost a year with this guy?
I met Ray through Scruff, a gay dating/hook-up app on my phone. I wasn’t sure what to expect with him, and figured at least I’d have a connection to the new neighborhood I’d just moved into only two weeks prior to meeting him. I was just getting used to where the food was kept in the house, and I distinctly remember asking permission to invite him over. Bil and Brandon just looked at each other, then back at me, like I’d lost my mind. Of course he could come over to my home (so long as he didn’t steal anything). Ray and I fooled around a bit, but it was after that, when we engaged in more conversation, that the penny dropped. Suddenly, we were talking about travel and life-goals and I found myself smiling. A lot. In fact, it was a smile that had hit my face since moving out of the dark back room of my ex-boyfriend’s house, only a little bit wider and brighter. This was the start to 2014.
Over the course of the next few months, things between Ray and I really picked up steam. He took me on a lovely camping trip to the coast. We went out dancing a few times, hit the movies, happy hour, and the like. I was working split shifts at the bus driving gig, and in between shifts, I’d come by and see him before he went to work in the afternoon. We saw each other on a pretty frequent basis, but in the early days, things were still kept light and sort of up in the air. Though I was prepared for a full-on commitment, I knew he was not, but I was willing to be patient and wait it out. He still had plans with other guys and plans for himself that he wanted to see through. I was unexpected in his life. What I didn’t realize, however, was just how little patience I had, and how much anxiety this would cause me.
I was hitting the gym pretty hard back then. Every other day for weeks, I was working out, fighting off the bulge that was sure to come now that I was eating again, and working a sit-down job. I didn’t know, or at least didn’t recognize, the amount of nervous tension that I was trying to channel through my sessions at the gym. I wasn’t hitting the gym to be fit, or build strength, though that was what I’d convinced myself I was doing, and was seeing results that indicated some progress. No, I was there because I was scared. Terrified, even. Much like the running I’d been doing right up until I moved (nearly thirty miles a week), I used exercise and putting myself through a physical ringer just to placate my nerves and insecurities.
Why would Ray want to be with a man like me? Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve this. I am not good looking. Over and over and over, these little demons kept whispering in my ear, telling me to not get too close, not to expose too much of myself to him because I’d been a failure as a boyfriend time and time again and this was nothing different and if I fall too far too fast it’s only going to break me…
And on and on and on.
What was really going on, I think, was that I hadn’t fully healed from my previous breakups. Instead of dealing with them head-on and at the time, I ran. Over and over and over again. Now, faced with yet another opportunity to share my world with someone special, all of that darkness was catching up to me. I was freaking out, but trying not to show anyone that I was.
Then, it all shifted. My work schedule became such so that he and I could take off and go on some adventures together. Four days off in a row meant hiking and camping and car rides and days spent in each other’s company. Though I knew he still had his life outside of him and I, it was during the summer, and on these adventures, that Ray began to open up more to me. I learned more about his own insecurities, his own points of weakness. I learned about his connections to his own family, and how his past was still affecting him. We shared so many things around campfires and at the coast and among giant sequoias and in the cab of his old Ford Ranger pickup.
Summer ended, and he took his trip to Europe. It was a thing he’d been planning and organizing since before he met me. It was to be a massive excursion on his own, as a means to overcome some of the past ugliness that his previous relationships had brought him. He would be alone on the trip, and able to make choices and decisions for himself by himself. He had no strings. That is, he didn’t when he originally planned it. Now, we were a thing, with the concept of monogamy existing between us. Now, he had another person in his life other than just himself.
The trip to Europe was good for him, and for us, in the long run. Though Ray made some bad alcohol-fueled decisions that nearly cost him his relationship with me, he did grow a bit, and realized through it all that being with me isn’t such a bad thing. He came home contrite, and willing to focus on us, and making us a stronger, more stabile entity. He needed my forgiveness, and he got it, though not without a clear understanding that it was a one-time shot. What I found to be true, as well, is that his trip overseas put us on an even keel. No longer was he the “perfect” man without flaw while I was just the low-life lucky enough to stand next to him. Now, he was just as human as I was, and am. Now, I see his flaws and quirks, just like he sees mine. Now, I get to make an honest judgement call about keeping this man in my life or not. I, of course, decided to keep him around, and I’m all the more satisfied with my choice.
It was on Thanksgiving, as he and I were being lazy and boozy on the couch, that it really sank in. Here was a man that I spent the greater part of the year fretting over, who I almost threw away for being just another human. I’m so thankful I chose to follow my guts and stick by him. I’m ever-so thankful that he is, in fact, human. We have so much more ahead for us, and to have ended my chance to grow both on my own and with him at my side simply because he shattered my illusions of who he actually was and revealed more of his true self to me would have been a grave mistake.
I have gone slack with my gym and fitness regime. We both have put on a few pounds, and the time we spend together is not fraught with so much reaffirming and worry over the status of things between us. We’ve gone past that now, and have begun the process of settling in with each other. I wanted this far sooner, but like most things, I’ve learned I cannot force what I want when I want it, much to my dismay. By recognizing this, and taking a step back, and simply letting us breathe as a couple, I have learned that it makes everything both smoother and sweeter. It’s as if the life we share does finally exist, having taken root, and can grow and become on its own, without my constant fussing and tending to it. Now, we get to actually grow, and go on adventures together, growing both individually and as a couple. Just like I’d hoped for.
I still want to lose a few pounds, but not out of anxiety or spite. This is all new for me.