Helena and I were 41 and 43 in 2014 when we met and, when we met, I honestly think we were a bit in love before we made eye contact. She’d seen something I’d written on Fetlife about Strong and Difficult Women that was inspired by a Royal Shakespeare Company mug I have, connecting Cleopatra, Desdemona, Kate, Lady Macbeth and Rosalind. She immediately pulled me up about the ‘difficult’ bit, and after much back-and-forth, with digressions on why Irish authors write better female characters, I changed it to ‘Strong and Challenging’, which sat much better with both of us.
We met at a munch a couple of weeks later, and I went to a (ostensibly vanilla) party at hers just after that, where things got excitable (involving fire poi, amongst other distractions), and then a couple of days later, we had our first night together in a hotel. She tries to deny how quickly I fell in love with her, but I can give you the gist of our Fetlife chat without ever having read it again. I can describe pretty much exactly what she wore when we met, how her hair looked, what we talked about, and how I (robust, confident, gregarious) could barely bring myself to look at her when we first met because she was so fucking …much. So beautiful and clever and funny.
We’ve been through so fucking much since then, blending families and tying together our lives, exploring and discovering things about ourselves and each other. I can honestly say I’m more in love with her today than I was yesterday, or any day before that. We know each other; we’re both ridiculously empathic, and that feeds the core of our relationship.
We’ve got a lot that we’ve brought into this relationship, including a not-insubstantial number of children, and we occasionally chat about opportunities missed. How it would have been to have our own, together. How we would have loved discovering ourselves together in our 20s. How it could have been if we’d been there to support, encourage, conspire and generally be a bad influence on each other. And we both miss those missed opportunities.
Except those missed opportunities weren’t really missed.
We were raised hundreds of miles and a sea apart. The closest we ever came to each other was about 50 miles when we were both doing our respective training. If we hadn’t travelled these separate paths; if we hadn’t had the respective spouses we had; if our previous relationships hadn’t failed when and how they did; if, if, if …
If we change one thing in our past, the whole bifurcating, Sliding Doors, Star Trek reboot, path not taken, chain of events that brought us together collapses, and we never meet. And although I’d have no way to know it, my life would have been immeasurably poorer for not having met her. The world would have had one fewer shining examples of ‘nauseatingly in love’. You know those doddery old couples you see in their 70s who are as clearly at least as in love as they were way back when? That’s our realistic and easily achievable relationship goal.
So. Do we wish we’d met 20 years earlier? Fuck yes. Do we begrudge it? Fuck yes. Would we change a single thought, deed, or decision that brought us to where we are now? No. Not a single fucking thing. I wish that we could have had another two decades of being in love, but we’re not concentrating on that. We’ve got today, and tomorrow and everything else, and we’re looking forward to being together in a nursing home, scandalising the staff by both of us flirting with the same cute ones, demanding Viagra, and Helena asking for assistance with her strap on cock.