The first time I remember meeting you, what stuck with me wasn’t your soft brown eyes. It wasn’t your bright grin, or your strong arms, or your wide shoulders. What struck me was the ridiculous hat you were wearing. It was, not to be too blunt, utterly awful. I left you there in that house party, and I went out clubbing, and I brought someone home, and I didn’t spare you another thought. Months went past, and I didn’t think of you.
And yet, we kept on running in to each other. I was indifferent; you’ve told me since that you were captivated. I found out you lived on the other side of Oxford from me, and in my flippant excitement, insisted that we exchange numbers. It would be a long summer. It would be nice to have some extra company. And that set us on a path of museum visits, late night texts, rock climbing, breaking in to Oxford colleges, dinner with friends, and finally, that house party, where my friend laughingly, drunkenly, suggested that I kiss you and I, finally, did. It would be weeks before I gave in and started dating you (“we’re just friends” became a favourite refrain.) It would take months before I finally started to fall in love with you. It’s taken me three years to finally understand that you’re not going anywhere.
People often say that their partner is their better half. It’s a playful comment, an affectionate nickname. In my case, it’s true. You complement me in a way that I never thought possible. Where I am angry, you are calm. Where I judge, you are tolerant. Where I scowl, you laugh. We go to parties, and I will rant about what a cow that girl was we met, while you sip a cider and calmly say you thought she was quite nice. You are soft and sweet where I can be harsh and cold. You wear your heart on your sleeve, openly and bravely, and persevere with me when I close up and push you away and refuse to talk about my emotions. I am a better person for being with you. I am a better person for knowing you.
I like to think I’ve made you a better person too. You were quieter when we met, less sure of yourself. Some of that isn’t down to me. It’s down to you growing as a person, down to your friends and your learning and your travelling. You were an awkward boy when we met, and now I see a confident man. We were at a party a few months ago. I was talking to a friend of a friend of a friend, someone who mercifully had a job like me and wasn’t another student at a party flooded with medics. I turned to get another drink, and you were there, dancing in the middle of the kitchen with a guy I vaguely recognised as being at your new university. You looked so happy, a smile splitting your face, and I felt a rush of pride and happiness that you were – are – mine.
The last three years are peppered with those happy little moments. They’re not big moments. I once read a post from one of my favourite bloggers, in which she says that love isn’t the big things, its counting pennies. I think we’ve done a lot of counting pennies together. A lot of nights sitting in the library. A lot of evenings cooking dinner with each other. You nagging me to tidy my room, and me throwing a wet towel at your face in response. Texting each other every day, keeping up with the minutiae of what you’re learning in medical school, while I bore you with that I’ve done in the office that day. We can spend hours together, not saying a word, engrossed in our own little worlds, until someone gets up to put the kettle on and drops a passing kiss on the other’s shoulder as they walk by.
You are, more than anything, my partner. You’ve put up with a lot from me. My broken wrist: you came to my room several times a day to help me dress, cook, wash up, and once, memorably, to shave my legs. My depression: you were my rock, there to stroke my hair and kiss the tears away and make me eat when I forgot. I hope that when you broke your collarbone I was half as supportive to you as you’ve been to me.
I am so proud to be your girlfriend. You are one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. You always manage to put a smile on my face. You even make me laugh when I’m crying sometimes, and then you laugh yourself and tell me I’m making my wibble face (whatever that means.) You are gorgeous, all long lines and lean muscles (and I’ll stop there because this is a public blog.) You are smart, and I sit in quiet awe as you revise for your exams with your flatmates, talking through drug names and physical examinations and viruses. You are kind. I love the life we have together, how you slot so effortlessly in to my life in Kingston. I love visiting you in Islington, the warm domesticity of cooking dinner for your flatmates. At first, I thought it was the house there that felt like home. It wasn’t. It was you.
So, my darling, there you have it. I am sorry that I never quite find the words to tell you how much I love you. I am sorry that I am blunt and sarcastic, that I hide how I feel and push you away when it gets hard. You inspire me to be different, to open my heart and say what you know, what I’ve told you, but don’t hear enough: I love you.