News from Shakes Manor

Threaded between the days and months and years of politics and culture, the posts and pictures and film of people and things with influence and consequence in orders of magnitude only history will tell, has always been something simpler, smaller, more intimate. Though it wasn't a conscious design, part of this blog has always been a love letter to Iain, filed mostly under the unassuming header "News from Shakes Manor." My partner and best friend Iain and I met online 10 years ago today: March 15, 2001.

[Video Description: Pictures from over the course of our relationship, set to Travis' "Flowers in the Window," the CD single of which was one of the first gifts Iain gave me. (Lyrics here.) It arrived in the mail with a half-smoked cigarette, so I—then still a smoker—could finish the rest of it and imagine we were sharing a smoke together, like we did when we weren't separated by an ocean.]

Our meeting was a totally random one, all because of an Oscar Wilde quote, and if anyone had asked either one of us—4,000 miles apart on separate continents, and I then married to someone else—on March 16 if we thought ten years later, we'd have built a life together in a little house in exurban Indiana, I'm pretty sure we both would have, after a moment of surprised consideration, said yes. Because from almost the moment we first exchanged words, it felt like joining the last two pieces of an enormous puzzle together.

By the time we had our first kiss in London's Norfolk Square, we had already exchanged "I love you"s, already had our first fight, already figured we'd spend our lives together. We did everything backwards; it was only after we had come to trust one another implicitly and confessed our deepest secrets and bared our insecurities and flaws and idiosyncrasies in all their dubious splendor that we gazed into each other's eyes for the first time—and realized in that moment we'd been right to invest in that most foolish conviction the nuances of our online relationship would translate seamlessly into real life when we finally met.

And by the time we'd completed all the tedious paperwork required to apply for the fiancĂ© visa which would allow Iain 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 the course of 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. Lazy Sunday afternoons. Curled up on the couch on a wintry day, under the same blanket, each reading a book we couldn't wait for the other to read. Hugging whenever we wanted. Going to dinner and the movies for a real date. 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 long 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 station, walking toward me on the platform clutching a book bound in red leather, lays itself across my heart.

I wish I could write something grand to sufficiently capture these 10 years, with everything good and everything bad and everything delightful and everything hard. I wouldn't know where to begin. Or where to put the ellipses at the end—because the truth is, Iain is always ahead of me when it comes to our relationship: He knew first that he loved me, and probably knew first that I loved him. He told me he loved me first, standing in the street outside a bar in Edinburgh, shouting into the phone, "I love ye, Lissie! I love ye!" He was ready to move, to apply for a visa, to get hitched, to get our shared life rolling before long before I'd even considered all the possibilities. He has always seen our future with clarity, and patiently waited for me to catch up and let him love me in the vast and encompassing ways for which I'm never quite prepared.

I wish I could write something wise, share some insights about love or relationships or something. I wouldn't know what to say. What I've learned seems like it should have been self-evident, and probably is to most everyone else, or seems inadequate somehow. I have learned that loving someone is easier than letting oneself be loved, because the latter requires a profound vulnerability that everything else in this world recommends we avoid. I've learned that, "Tell me things," is an excellent conversation-starter. And I've learned that kindness is not overrated.

I wish I could write something that would do justice to what has been the most important relationship in my life, with a person so fundamentally decent, so witty, so interesting, so indescribably dear to me. But the truth is, if I could do it justice with a few words on a page, it wouldn't be worth writing about in the first place.

I love you, Iain. Thank you for every day of the past ten years.

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