"This person, right here."

That's what Iain says, sliding his long arm around my shoulders, when someone asks him what brought him to the US. Often, it's specifically a question about how this ginger-bearded Scotsman ended up in exurban Indiana: What brought you here, of all places? the expression on the asker's face seems to say, betraying the suspicion lurking in many a Hoosier subconscious that the state is inhabited almost exclusively by those who have yet to successfully plot an escape route.

Technically, it was an immigration policy that privileges our heterosexuality, ten metric fucktons of paperwork, a visa, and, eventually, a transatlantic jet that brought him here. But he is answering the question they're really asking, about what made him want to come in the first place. And so he gazes at me with this look, this look that I dare not try to describe lest I somehow compromise its exquisite complexion, and says, "This person, right here."

In those moments, I feel very loved.

I imagine I make him feel exactly as loved in ways I don't recognize, although he'd have to tell you about that. Both of us, for our individual reasons, aren't always great at receiving compliments—and there is perhaps no greater compliment than to be expansively loved by someone who has seen you at your absolute worst and decided to stick around nonetheless. So we have moments where we squirm at being loved, or reject it outright in a fit of self-destructive pique, but it is the moments in which we can wear comfortably the love that is being offered that hang lastingly in my memory, and his, forming a web of connected points into which we can fall, our safety net, whenever we stumble.

Love is a joint pursuit, but an individual practice, which is what makes it difficult to sustain. There are moments when one person loves the other more, is more committed, is more invested, is more present. In these moments—or hours, or days, or indefinite stretches of threadbare emotional reserves—the intimacy that makes conversation feel combustible in the first flourishes of a romance can be elusive, seemingly every trace of its existence vanished from all but the faintest recollection.

And in these moments, one can do naught but gaze from the swaying cradle of the safety net up at the highwire where love resides, and think, "I'm glad we had the foresight to build this fuckin' thing."

Once a year, Iain and I do a state of our union. This weekend, on the way to our favorite restaurant for dinner, we talked about where we are—as individuals, and together. It's the longest relationship either of us has ever had, and it seems to each of us like we have just met, and simultaneously as though there is a sense of permanence that only time can convey.

When we were still apart, living on separate continents and waiting for the piece of paper that would change that forever, time dripping by at an inconceivably slow pace, one of our most frequent topics of conversation was 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. Sitting on the porch just out of the reach of the rain during a summer storm, with the wind blowing electricity through our hair. Holding 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 that day still has not come. Every time he takes my hand, I remember a time when it wasn't possible. Every time we fall into bed and arrange ourselves in a tangle of arms and legs, I think about the time when we couldn't. 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 station in London lays itself across my heart.

"If I can't make a relationship work with you, I don't think I could make one work with anyone," I told him in the car, on the way to the restaurant. He laughed, and said he felt the same way. There is an inescapability to our partnership that would foment a strangled desperation if we were not so well-matched; but, because we are, our entrenchment yields instead a contented bliss.

We recalled the things that we first recognized as evidence of our befittery: We both loved Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, and Omar Khayyam. But it was really the voracious desire that welled in each of our bellies to know what made the other one tick, to uncover and understand the affections we didn't already share, that was The Thing. Never had I felt such a craving, such a need, to know another person so urgently, nor had I previously experienced such an unreserved willingness to be known.

When we reached the restaurant, Iain requested a table in our favorite server's section. As always, we chatted with her lightly for a few minutes, discussing important issues like the last season of Lost, before she turned to me and asked, "And what do you want tonight?"

This person, right here.

Tonight, tomorrow, always. Happy anniversary, Iain. I love you.

[Previously: Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three.]

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