If you wait long enough, it all comes around again. We were just afraid we were too old for it now.
Steve and I woke up one day in 2013, stepped out of a time machine, and rather reluctantly set about reliving one of the simplest and best times of our lives. Among the differences: one less room and one more twin bed. Oh, plus one cute dog and 15 years experience. But we find ourselves once again affectionately brushing past each other in a cramped basement apartment as we attempt to access our half-stove or half-bed.
Back in our late twenties in the late Nineties, our romance was fresh and six years young and rooted in grunge, yearning, and wanderlust. Sleeping in a twin bed together expressed our sensibilities. No, don’t reread that. We really did share one twin mattress for four years, one of those in a two-room basement apartment (luxurious by our current standard).
I slept better those years than ever before or since, with my arms up above my head to further decrease the width of our two thin bodies, and Steve Superman-flying beside me. Between us we owned my Smith Corona word processor, a tiny Hibachi grill, one paid-off Chevy Cavalier, my childhood bed and desk, and a hand-me-down table and chairs, dresser, blankets, plates, pots, pans…heirlooms, all. And there was more where they came from, so there was little to lose and little to fear. We read great literature, learned to identify trees, wrote poetry, and read the dictionary in bed. Above us hung a cling wipe-off sheet on which was drawn a huge heart Steve had painstakingly colored in with a thin red marker. One day as I slept away the symptoms of a yet-undiagnosed autoimmune illness, he had quietly spread it across the wall so when I opened my eyes I’d know only love and not pain.
Steve still makes me hearts. This photo shows the handiwork I discovered just last March, on the cabinets we had chosen together. These are the gifts that make my whole being sing. I was never one for jewelry. We love a weekly dinner out and a yearly trip and a comfortable home and we surely miss those luxuries. But our hearts feel bigger in this little space now than they did in our house or back in our two-bedroom basement apartment, before expanding had even occurred to us.
Our first four years together had been long distance. Then all through our twin bed days, I taught school and he worked nights. People saw how blissful we were and warned us about real life and spending actual time together. Of course we were brushing past one another with an affectionate elbow squeeze and giddily sharing a 4×4 bathroom. But just wait until….
Well, here we are again,,,and still. Another less-than-glamorous start in another basement. Back then we came home to a cesspool backup in our shower; today we arrive at our apartment to smell and abate a sewer backup. In 1998 it was one twin bed; here we use two twin air mattresses. We are starting again again, this time in a swarm of real life–and still unable to resist pausing for a hug on our way to another harrying task. Now we are not yearning but hopeful, not blissful but contented. We reach for each other’s hands across the floor every night as our beds are apart and arranged, symbolically, around a support pole.
We will never forget what holds us up, what grounds us. We are sure of that now. Coming full circle back to our basement, Steve and I still share an unwavering mutual trust, a passion for learning, the generous gifts of friends and family, and adoring little squeezes savored in the narrowest of spaces.