Last week, I told you a story about love. This week, I’m going to tell you a story about time. But don’t worry: it has love, too. This story is seven years old, and it was originally written by my past self. Prepared by Past-Michael if you will. Stories are a little bit like fish in that way: best prepared fresh.
This story starts where the last story ended: the night I met my husband. Past-Michael called this “How I met my boyfriend”, but I took the liberty to change the title to “How I met my husband”.
How I Met My Husband — Episode 1: The one where it all began
Wednesday, August 3, shortly after midnight at Golden Hits in Stockholm:
“I’m going to kiss you“
We started talking fifteen minutes earlier; his name was Mike and he was visiting from the US.
I had noticed him earlier that evening. He was making his way up the stairs at Golden Hits when our eyes met. A slight smile gave his lips a nice curve. He looked like a young, more handsome Ed Harris, with a curious twinkle in his eyes and an open face. Later, as he stood in the bar a few meters away, I saw that he had very nice hands too. Our eyes met again, we both smiled and that was about where it was decided.
It was as if everything else became unimportant when we were kissing. My brain switched off and the next morning I was pleasantly surprised that I had invited him back to my place. This was the first time in almost ten years that I brought someone back with me after a night of (heavy) drinking. I was even more surprised that my hangover-induced angst wasn’t projected on him. On the contrary, his presence had a soothing effect on me. We ate breakfast and spent a couple hours in bed talking and making out.
Wednesday, August 3, shortly after 7 pm at Tunnelgatan, Hötorget
“I’m sorry that I was weird this morning. You kissing me in the subway threw me off. I’m not used to public displays of affection and got uncomfortable”.
Thursday, August 4, shortly after 9 am in my apartment:
“So do your friends and family know about you?“
He stood naked in my kitchen, washing the dishes after breakfast. I admired, and enjoyed, the scenery. He handled the bowls and glasses with a deliberate care. I noticed how good his legs looked. You could tell by the tan line that he had worn shorts that went halfway down his thigh. I walked up to him, put my arms around him and kissed his neck.
Thursday, August 4, 10:55 outside Kulturhuset:
“Brace yourself, there’s going to be a public display of affection. I’m going to kiss you.“
A couple seconds later:
“So, I guess this is it?“
“It’s not the last time we see each other“
“I hope so”
It didn’t take long to reset my brain for the first seminar of the day. Perhaps it was equal parts focus and escapism. It wasn’t until early evening, when lack of sleep and the tiredness after a day full of seminars at Pride House kicked in, that the sadness that he was gone hit me.
How I Met My Husband — Episode 2: Where the summer romance ends
Thursday, August 4, outgoing message:
Hey Mike! My thoughts exactly. I wish you were here right now. About the onslaught of feelings: Sometimes I guess that we’re… aligned for lack of a better word. Aligned both in feelings and openness. When two people who both are aligned meet, and you add that awesome attraction, both mentally and physically, that’s when the stuff that good stories are made of happens.
Thursday, August 4, shortly after 9 PM, on my way to Bögjävlarna’s underwear party
There were many similarities between my movie-like summer romance with Arnaud, but this was different. Maybe it was the fact that we got more time together. Maybe it was because we met on my home turf. Maybe the attraction between me and Mike simply was stronger.
I was hoping the story would continue, but my rational side knew that it was over. What could we do? He lived in Cleveland, I lived in Stockholm. It’s not like you cross the Atlantic Ocean to visit a person you’ve seen for 35 hours. The first step one of us had to take to stop this story from fading as summer became fall, was simply too big.
On the other hand, what were the odds of us meeting? He was attending a wedding in Copenhagen, and took the opportunity to visit Stockholm for three days. I was at Golden Hits for the first time because they happened to have a pre-Pride party. He happened to pass by and saw the rainbow flag, which made him go inside.
I make a decision to be happy for what we had instead of grieving that it was over.
Sunday, August 7, incoming message:
“Just told my friends that I met a great guy in sweden. They were happy for me. The wedding was great. I’ve decided that I will be seeing you again, no maybes.”
He came out to his friends by telling them he had met me? This was bigger than big. Sometimes it’s not the length of the meeting that matters, it’s the intensity.
Monday, August 8, incoming message:
“Sitting in the airport and dreading the fact I am traveling so far away from you. In good news I got upgraded to first class.”
Wednesday, August 10, outgoing message:
“I have the tickets. Will be at Cleveland International on the evening of the 1st. I hope you’re not too tired today. Talk to you after you’re done with work!”
This was no longer a summer romance. It was more than that. The rational part of my brain was desperately screaming that this was emotional madness, but I didn’t care.
How I Met My Husband — Episode 3: where the cheerleader begins to play
I’ve always considered myself a brave person, and I have acted bravely in many situations. No matter if it’s jumping out of an airplane, telling someone to put out a cigarette in the subway, or giving a lecture for 200 persons, I’ve rarely hesitated and almost never backed out. I’ve always preferred to do and participate instead of watching and theorizing.
It was very painful to realize that I, when it came to relationships, was the antithesis of my ideal self; I was the scared spectator. I confessed to Sofia, one of my best friends. “When it comes to relationships, not only have you been sitting on the bleachers. You’ve been reviewing the people playing, and you’ve been the cheerleader chanting ‘I told you so!’ when someone fell and got hurt”. It takes a good friend to say something you don’t want to hear, but need to. The anger and shame I felt when hearing that statement were a validation of it. I realized how often I’ve used logic and rationalization to control, explain and justify my lack of showing other emotions than anger or happiness
I pretended to be Spock in Star Trek when I really am that guy who wells up when the strings begin to play.
Suddenly, everything seemed so clear. I saw the pattern: that I never cried in front of other persons, that I didn’t tell the persons I love that I do love them, that it’s easier for me to have sex with people I don’t have emotions (other than lust) for.
No matter what happens between me and Mike, this is one of the best things I could have learned at the age of 34: it’s not logical, rational or a show of strength not to show emotions, or to control any show of emotions other than anger or happiness. It’s like always wearing a dark suit when you really want to wear a bright red t-shirt, because you’re afraid what others will think.
I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s so easy for me to accept and act on my feelings for Mike. One reason, perhaps the major one, is that there is no judgement between us. Another reason is that the language creates a distance, an airbag of sorts, which makes it easier for me to handle the feelings. A third is about our individual experiences — it’s as if our backgrounds made dents in us that the other smoothes out in the exact right places.
The cheerleader in me had reluctantly accepted that I had left the bleachers and wandered out on the playing field, but when I two weeks later changed my Facebook status to “in a relationship” he totally freaked.
“What are you? A fourteen year old emo? What will everyone else think? THIS IS BEYOND IRRATIONAL. IT’S MADNESS!”. As per usual, I was my own harshest judge. But I am out on the field, playing, and it feels way too good for me to quit and return to the bleachers. Sure, there are lots of people sitting there, reviewing my game. They judge and criticise me, ready to say ‘Told you so!”. I don’t mind. Either they’ll stay there, watching life instead of living it, or they’ll go out on the field and start playing — and then they will understand.
Now, friend, if you’ve paid attention, you have probably asked yourself “what does that story have to do with time? I can see love, but time? Where?”. Well, it depends on where you choose to begin the story. When does your story begin? When you were born? But that would mean our parent’s stories weren’t our stories, and that is simply not true. So was it when your parents met? How about their parents? You can keep doing that as far back as the universe is old: 13.8 billion years. That’s when the process that now is you began for real. If we look at the atoms that you are comprised of, over 60% of them are hydrogen. Most hydrogen atoms that exist came into being with the Big Bang. That means that 60% of the atoms in your body are as old as the universe itself. Mind you, it’s only about 7% by weight, but do you know what the other 93% are? Star dust. Literally. In addition to hydrogen, your body consists of carbon, oxygen, iron, calcium, phosphorus and nitrogen. All those elements were made in stars. Phosphorus, for example, is believed to be made in massive stars, more than eight times the mass of our sun. So in order for you to exist, not only had your parents have to meet at the right time, but many stars had to go supernova to create the stardust that you are made of. So be careful where you begin your story, otherwise your story may fool you that you are separate from the universe, and stop you from realizing that you ARE the universe. Not only is it important where you start your story, it’s also important where you end it. For a long time, I ended that story of following my heart to Ohio at seventeen, with the flight home. Shame prevented me from giving it even a fleeting thought for twenty years. As I was thinking about stories, and decided to brace myself and open that tomb of shame, I gave that story a new ending: an ending where the seventeen year old comes home heartbroken, but fourteen and some years later, he meets a handsome, intelligent guy for 36 hours and again follows his heart on a whim to Ohio. And this time it ends with love. At least for now.
What stories have you not told yourself or others? Think about it, perhaps you will find a new, better ending to some of your painful stories. Dream about it. Until next time, sleep well my friend, until you wake up.