We have marked two years together as a couple, capped off by our most recent trip. We met up in Phoenix, Arizona, where Raymond took me around to the places he grew up, and showed me the geography that shaped his childhood and younger years.
For weeks leading up to the trip, it was clear that he was going through some sort of transformation. Ray got quiet, was doing a lot of hibernation and introspection, and like a turtle, he retreated into his shell, waiting for the clouds to pass and the way to be clear. While I don’t know the exact measure and cadence of his thoughts in those weeks leading up to the trip back home, I could tell that he was in deliberation.
Two years is the longest relationship he’s ever been committed to. Two years, while just a number, was of massive significance to him.
I met his mother. I got to see the dead mining town where he grew up. I got to spend some time in the little house, with the muddy yard and all of the animals, that shaped the Raymond that I’ve grown to love and adore. I saw the skies overhead. As the miles swept under us and out around us across the vastness of the desert, I found myself wondering what it was like to be eight or ten or twelve years old and having this be the only world you’ve ever known. What did it mean to not have trees, apart from a few aged cottonwoods, to frame your view of nature? What was summer like without running water, without a break from the heat? How many billions of stars twinkled overhead in the deep blackness of unhindered space, and which one was the first that he saw and counted?
His childhood was so different than mine, if only by the way the landscape altered our imaginations. Still, there are space where we overlap. We both have a shared awe with the natural world around us. We both can appreciate both being in the middle of an urban center and the madness that we escape the moment we get beyond the urban boundaries. We both know how to find Polaris in the night sky. We both close our eyes and inhale deeply when the ground is freshly dampened by a rain. We both know how to let go and be honest with ourselves and with each other, holding honest conversations in the strangest of places. We reach out instinctively for the other’s hand to squeeze when words can’t explain the feelings, or simply fall short.
Two years into this, and I love him even more. Two years, and he’s coming back out of his shell.
“We’ve both put on a little weight together, and that’s not a bad thing, Thomas. We’re just happy. Stop being so worried about it all the time.”
He is right. We are happy.