Iain and I usually go to bed at the same time every night. I don't mean at the same o'clock; that would be far too disciplined for two people who turn into vampires given three consecutive days off. What I mean is that, whenever one of us finally decides it's time to crash into bed, the other typically follows.
Neither of us feels obliged to do so. It is a habit into which we've fallen because lying in bed at night, in the dark, talking about some article one of us read, or posing absurd hypotheticals to each other until we are laughing too hard to fall asleep, or predicting who Mourinho will start at the weekend, is one of our favorite parts of the day.
There's something magical about those nighttime conversations. Even though we could talk about any of the things we talk about at night during another part of the day—and do—the intimacy of our bed, our faces close on our pillows, makes me feel like we are the only people in the world in those moments.
One night recently, after I'd introduced a particularly nerdy (even by my standards) conversation about Wolverine, which we'd thoroughly mined, I said to Iain, "Do you ever wonder what it might be like to be married to someone with normal bedtime talk? More 'how was your day' and less 'regenerative properties of Wolverine'?" He laughed. He didn't wonder that. He was just glad we'd found each other.
So was I.
Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the day we met online, stumbling across one another in a long-defunct web community, because an Oscar Wilde quote on his profile piqued my interest enough to send him a five-word private message.
It was a chance meeting, with unlikely odds of becoming anything, given that we lived 4,000 miles apart at the time. But each of us had, immediately and urgently, a powerful if unaccountable sense of whatever it is that makes us delighted conspirators ensconced in the grown-up fort of our fluffy comforter every night.
We made sense to each other. And we helped one another make sense of ourselves.
I relocated temporarily to Scotland, and then Iain moved permanently to the United States, so we could start to build a life together. We lived in Illinois, with a friend, for a while, and then we moved to Indiana, eventually buying a home in which we stayed for 11 years.
At the end of 2015, as some of you know, Iain was transferred for work to Pennsylvania, and so we left the state which had long been our home, to embark on a new adventure. A cross-country move is an incredible upheaval, no less with five furry beasties in tow. But we have found a new home that we love, in a new place we continue to explore together.
Over sixteen years, we have lived in two countries, on two continents, and in three different states. The landscape has changed, our circumstances have changed, and we have changed as individuals. What has not changed is our desire to be together. To be in this, all of it, together.
When we were in the early throes of figuring out how to make this thing work, people would often ask me where we were going to live. Scotland? The U.S.? Somewhere else altogether? I would answer, with the confidence of someone filled with the abundant possibility of new love, that it didn't matter, because my home would be wherever Iain was.
That was, depending on your perspective, a romantic or foolish thing to say then. (It was probably a little of both.) Now, sixteen years later, it is just the truth.
Neither of us is easy. We each have our own set of quirks, idiosyncrasies, and flaws—possibly (almost assuredly) more than the average person. We are each fiercely independent, but also fiercely loyal. We both like lots of time on our own, and lots of attention in other moments. We like weird stuff, not always the same weird stuff. We both have a keen desire to do kind things for each other, and we both have a frustrating reluctance to accept kind things being done for us.
The home we have built, wherever it is in time and space, is a place where we can each feel safe, be known, and make sense of ourselves.
There are nights, when I am lying in bed beside him, after we have finished our nighttime talk and we are both falling asleep in the quiet, that I think about sending that message—and I think about what if I hadn't.
It's a thought that fills me with something like panic. It was such a small thing, such a particular moment, so random a decision that set my life on this trajectory.
The anxiety that washes over me is so profound, as though there's a chance that somehow it could all be undone. If I hadn't sent that message which started this journey home…
But I did.