When people ask me how E. and I met, I have two stock replies: the first is that we met in a bar, which is more or less true. The second is that we saved each other lives while fleeing from a pack of ravenous wild boar which had escaped from the zoo, maraudering through the sleepy village of Aucterfachtermachter. In either case, the answer is designed to evade the full truth- which is that in fact, we met online. I don't know why I should be coy about it; all the best people meet that way nowadays. I mean, you're here, aren't you? Exactly.
But for some reason, meeting online is regarded in certain circles here as sort of...odd. So most of the time, we basically skim over that reality and offer up a streamlined version. Because after all, we really did meet in 'real life' for the first time in a bar. A nugget of honesty there, enough to keep flinging out the version with a straight face.
I've realised though, in thinking about our relationship, that I'm doing us a disservice by not telling the real story. So the other day, I went back to the very beginning. I've been holding on to my former dinosaur of a computer for the sole reason that I haven't ever gotten around to transferring those first email exchanges between us into another format. Looking through the files was like sifting through a box of love letters. He said...then I said back...then he told me about...and then I sent him...then he replied....
I remember clearly the first time I talked to him on the phone. We had been emailing back and forth for awhile, until finally emboldened, he offered up his number. It was early summer, and I sat on the floor of the bedroom in my lovely old flat with the endless Scottish evening pouring in over my shoulder. We talked for over three hours. I don't recall much of what we said, but I recollect clearly tracing the coil of the blue braided rug with my feet over the space of those hours. Around and around, over and over, while listening to his beautiful voice.
By the time we hung up, we had agreed to talk again, to meet. A week later I walked into the bar and he stood up. I had never believed in love at first sight until then. It was like being hit by lightening. He bought me a drink, which I gulped way too quickly. He had stacked the change in a neat pile on the table, toying with the spare pence while we talked. I noticed he had spilled a tiny bit of toothpaste on his blue shirt, near the collar. The first time he touched me was when he took my wrist so he could look at the time on my watch; we laughed when I pointed out the clock just above my head.
I had trouble sleeping for most of that summer. So astounded was I at my luck in meeting him, this amazing person, my heart folding with so much hope that I would wake in the night and be unable to get back to sleep. I found myself taking extra care when crossing the street, cautious that this new, tremulous joy not be ripped away by a careless step.
Sometimes when I think about our history, I believe that the lightening bolt was not entirely a good thing. I was so certain that this was what I wanted, you see. For the first time in my entire life, I was in absolutely love with somebody who seemed to love me back. But I realise now that this certainty was a gift I couldn't keep. That life was always going to intervene at some point. Life with these hard choices, hard decisions, and hard losses. And yet even now I can't decide how best to move forward or move on.
Which is why I sit here. Sifting through old love letters. Remembering what was. Telling the truth.