My Valentine

By the time Mr. Shakes and I shared our first kiss in London’s Norfolk Square, we had already exchanged “I love you”s, already had our first fight, already planned to marry. We did everything backwards; it was only after we had come to trust one another implicitly and confessed our deepest secrets that we gazed into each other’s eyes for the first time. It was only after spending so much time apart that we were finally able to spend time together.

In retrospect, it seems impossibly crazy—and thoroughly unlikely. A brief online encounter between two people, 4,000 miles apart. Emails, IMs, phone calls. Exchanged pictures. Books sent through the mail. Foolish convictions that it would all translate seamlessly into real life when we finally met.

And then, on August 9, 2001, we did.

I flew into London the night before, arriving at 7:30 am. I dumped off my bags at the hotel and freshened up a bit in their tiny WC; the room wasn’t ready yet. And then I wandered around for awhile—a neighborhood I knew, and I was glad to be back in the area. Though I was jittery with nerves, walking its familiar streets was comforting. I bought a paper at the corner shop, peered into the windows of a great little Greek restaurant where we would eat two nights later, with my girlfriend Miller. When the time came, I made my way to King’s Cross, and looked at the giant arrivals and departures board, to find out on what platform I should wait. I went to the bathroom and peered at myself in the mirror. I looked like shit—exhausted, scummy with travel, my hair tied up in a messy twist. I went back to the platform and nervously chain-smoked, and then the train was pulling in.

People were pouring out of the train, and I watched them walk toward me as I slouched against a column, my knees weak and my heart about to pound right out of my chest. When I saw him, my back went straight. We held each other’s eyes. He came to me and I wrapped my arms around his neck—he leaning down and I on my tiptoes, to accommodate the difference in our height. “Hi, Lissie,” he said, against my ear.

We started to walk out of the train station, and at a V, he started to veer the wrong way. I grabbed his hand. “This way,” I said, and pulled him gently. Our fingers stayed entwined as we walked out into the air, the noise of the London streets. We chattered nervously about our respective trips as we made our way to the tube, to head back to the hotel. On the train, we stood, looking at one another and babbling nonsensically and bumping into each other with the motion of travel. And by the time we reached Paddington Station, and walked above ground, the nerves were disappearing. We crossed the street and walked to Norfolk Square, and on the corner, across from the park, he dropped his bag and pulled me to him and kissed me.

And that was that.

By the time we’d done all the official paperwork of a fiancée visa, allowing Mr. S. to move to the States, his stay predicated on our getting hitched within 90 days, we’d been in each other’s presence just a little over a month, spread over a year. The rest of the time we spent apart, connected only by the internet, the phone, and the mail. A six-hour time difference meant little sleep for both of us; he stayed up too late; I got up too early. We were constantly sick with missing each other, and the worry that our paperwork would never come through. But it did—and on June 12, 2002, we were married by a judge in a 10-minute ceremony…and then we went out for burgers.

When we were apart, all we could talk about is what it would be like when we were together. Sock feet on hardwood floors on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Curled up on the couch on a wintry day, under the same blanket, reading our own books. Hugging each other whenever we wanted. Going to the movies. Making dinner together in our kitchen, bumping hips and sharing a glass of wine. Never feeling again the joy of being together cast in the shadow of knowing it wouldn’t last. When we spoke about how we would never take for granted the chance of being together, even then I thought we would. I figured there would come a time when not every day felt precious, when the routine of life inevitably replaced our gratitude.

But it hasn’t. Every time we snuggle up on the couch to watch a film, I think about the time when we couldn’t. Every time he takes my hand, I remember a time when it wasn’t possible. Every evening, when he walks through the door, I am happy to see him, and the memory of seeing for the first time at King’s Cross lays itself across my heart.

We did everything backwards, you see. I felt the loss of him first. And it will forever make me keenly aware of what having him really means.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Shakes. I love you.

(The first picture is Back Where You Belong by a Scottish artist called Jack Vettriano. The second is Edward Hopper’s Room in New York. Copies of each hang in our home.)

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus